Programs + Resources

Faith Leaders

Faith communities—including churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, and other places of worship—have tremendous potential for nurturing the healthy development of young people.

Whether it is through the youth programs, service projects, or intergenerational activities, congregations are involved already in the work of building assets in young people.

Most youth leaders do not have the power within a congregation to introduce major change on their own. Most need the active support of senior clergy and others in the congregation. We encourage congregations to build teams to integrate the assets into their congregation.

Research from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health has shown that youth who are highly involved in religious activities are less likely to use cigarettes, alcohol, or other drugs. The numbers are similar for adults. Consider acknowledging youth substance use in scriptures and prayer.

Tips for Faith Community Members

  • Help young people see their faith tradition as a resource in resisting negative peer pressure and avoiding dangerous situations.
  • Start a discussion group for young people. Encourage them to talk about times when they have felt pressured to act in opposition to their beliefs.
  • Provide children and teens with opportunities to serve others. Let them know they have the power to make a difference.
  •  Accept and affirm all young people for who they are. Recognize and affirm individual talents, abilities, and accomplishments.
  • Speak explicitly to kids about creating meaning in their lives and how that translates into daily activities, career choices, relationships and behaviors.
  • Do projects that point to a more hopeful future. Instead of always addressing problems, identify areas of hope and creativity and encourage kids to get involved.
  • Find ways for young people to affirm and support each other in making positive choices about sex, alcohol and drugs. Help them articulate the reasons for their decision.
  • Invite young people to think about ways to positively influence their friends and peers in school and in the community.
  • Plan intergenerational programs and events so kids can meet adult role models.
  • Plan intergenerational programs and events so kids can meet adult role models.Educate the entire faith community on how members can help young people feel safe at home, at school and in their community. 

    Source: What Kids Need to Succeed. Proven, Practical Ways to Raise Good Kids. Peter Benson, Ph.D., Judy Galbraith, M.A., and Pamela Espeland. 2012