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One of my readers wrote:

I have been requested to facilitate a session with parents by a Local Spiritual Assembly which is concerned with apathy and disinterest shown by Baha’i youths and young adults towards Feast and other Baha’i activities. The parents are mostly long-time Baha’is who are in themselves wonderful souls with a deep love for the Faith. But of late there has been a noticeable lack of involvement by the second generation in this community. I humbly seek your ideas as to what can shared with parents to address these issues.

I replied:

Wow, that’s the $64,000 question!  🙂

It is such a heart-break for parents when their children turn away . . . my own son is certainly also in this same category.  He’s 30 now, and never became a Bahá’í, although I made every effort to send him to children’s classes; youth groups; summer schools and even sent him to a Bahá’í –inspired high school for 3 years.  I’m sure this has had some effect on his character, but I wish he’d recognized Baha’u’llah; and become active in the Faith.

I don’t know what the answer is, truly I don’t!

One of the things I’ve noticed when I look around his peer group is that (in general, there are exceptions, of course!) – the most active Bahá’í  youth are the ones whose parents are still married to each other.  The Bahá’ís whose parents are divorced (or even remarried), tend in large part, to be the ones who have turned away.

This quote comes to mind:

What needs to be appreciated in this respect is the extent to which young minds are affected by the choices parents make for their own lives, when, no matter how unintentionally, no matter how innocently, such choices condone the passions of the world—its admiration for power, its adoration of status, its love of luxuries, its attachment to frivolous pursuits, its glorification of violence, and its obsession with self-gratification.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 28 Dec. 2010)

At our recent National Convention, our counsellor talked about the generation of youth who have gone missing from long time, steadfast Bahá’í families; and his advice seemed to be to learn from our mistakes; and focus on the children’s classes, and junior youth program; to save the next generation.

So the guidance to parents might be to do everything they can to save their marriages; and to firmly embrace these two core activities.

A member of the Baha’i Council added this to the discussion:

With regards to poor attendance at Feasts and Holy Days, one of the causes of disinterest might be that the older generation tends to conduct Feasts as they always have, and sometimes it is boring for adults too!  Having the children tell stories from the children’s classes or having the Junior Youth tell a story from their weekly lesson or having the people who are doing intensives or working with parents share a touching story may be some of the ways we can get individuals more involved and bring some excitement back in to the feast atmosphere!

I know we brought a youth in to a feast once to share what they had learned during an intensive which allowed for the conversation after the program to focus on spiritual matters rather than talking about the next football game!

These articles, while not directly addressing the issue, might give you some insights and quotes to share with the parents.

Checklist to Ensure the 19 Day Feast is Held Properly

Improving the Quality of Our Reflection Meetings

Why Do People Resign from the Bahá’í Faith? 

Letter to a Former Bahá’í 

Encouraging Universal Participation

How Do We Create a Climate of Encouragement?

I once met a man at Green Acre Bahá’í School – he was in his 60’s and had been raised in a Bahá’í family.  He had rejected everything he had been taught and his life took him down the path to addictions (drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex).  I’m sure he broke his parent’s hearts in so many ways.  He was just now coming back to the Faith; and he told us that as bad as his life got, he always knew he had that foundation to come back to.

My most fervent prayer for all of our lost youth, everywhere in the world, is that this remains true for them to . . . and that they will come back to the only refuge for a tottering civilization!

What are your thoughts on this topic?  Please post your comments below!