Nearly every young woman that I have interviewed had a Season of Decision.
Every one of the interviewees was raised in the faith. While they were growing up, most of them accepted their parents’ faith by default. Many of these women professed faith in Christ during those years, but I discovered that nearly all of them spoke of a time when simply going along with their parents’ faith was no longer good enough. This is what I refer to as the Season of Decision.
With some variation, most women entered this season between the ages of 16 and 20. The end of the season has a much wider range. Some made their decision in their early adult years and some take much longer; one interviewee said that God called her back in her mid-30s.
Those who left the faith often had no positive Christian contact or support once they left home. Victoria, a 23-year-old, said, “I had an existential crisis my sophomore year in college, when I suddenly realized that I wasn’t sure whether I believed in God and Heaven. It was a really difficult time for me because there wasn’t really anyone I could turn to who could offer any definitive proof one way or the other.” Amidst her doubts and unanswered questions, Victoria chose to leave the faith.
Even those who retained their faith often had a time when they questioned their faith, but they recounted it as a positive thing. Kat, a 26-year-old, said, “I was really challenged in college to question my faith a little more. It was my first interaction with lots of people who had a different faith or no faith. I also had more significant interactions with people who were dealing with the big questions in life and those people challenged me to make my faith my own. That’s when I started really digging in. I still question a lot of things and have been more engaged in social justice … my faith has diverged from my parents’ faith (not so structured, more focused on grace and service and love), but I own it now.”
Kat touched on two very common themes amongst those who retained their faith. First, she had positive, non-parent Christian mentors who challenged her faith. And the second common theme that I have heard from young women who have retained their faith is that their personal faith differs from what they were raised with, opting for fewer traditions and more faith in action, particularly with regards to social justice.
As a result of these findings, two thoughts come to mind:
Stay involved. When our children emerge into adulthood, they need us more than ever. But our “involvedness” will look different based on our relationship to the young adult. Parents: I keep hearing that in this stage in life, talking too much pushes them away. They see it as nagging. They roll their eyes at your obvious hints and bribery attempts to get them to church. They have piles of good Christian books you gave them that they will not read. Our role now is to pray and to be there as a steady, loving example. However, input from other Christians is typically welcome and is often instrumental in helping a young adult process their faith and make it their own. So we need to stay involved in our local churches and on our college campuses to keep supporting and loving these young adults as they journey through this Season of Decision.
Live the faith. Time and time again, these young women are telling me that they don’t really care what we say; they care what we DO. They want to see real love in action.
Keep hoping. Keep praying. Keep loving.
Kristi, for WeConnect