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March 18, 2015 / BTM

What is the New Average Age for Kids to Have a Crisis of Faith?


I think many of us would say that the university years are the years when our kids are most likely to face a crisis of faith.  We think of this as the time when kids are taking a ‘borrowed’ faith and deciding if they will make it their own or not.

Many would also suggest high school – particularly the older grades – as having a strong potential for a crisis of faith.  That’s when a child begins to cross over to adulthood – albeit in fits and starts.

I would have said either of these times were likely candidates for a crisis of faith.  But I recently learned that my information is outdated.  There is a new average age when kids hit a crisis of faith.

The average age for a crisis in faith is now 13.

Now, I don’t have a formal study to back this up.  But this is something that Christian apologists who work regularly with youth are finding.


One huge reason is the internet.  Through the internet, kids suddenly have access to a myriad of information that they’ve never been exposed to before.  And often they do not have the critical thinking skills to cope with the information they are accessing.

I am not advocating banning the internet.  I’m not even advocating protecting your kids from this kind of information.  That’s unrealistic and will only delay the issue.

Don’t isolate – inoculate

The people at Stand to Reason are great at advocating inoculation over isolation when it comes to helping kids understand and evaluate different ideas and worldviews.  I totally agree with them, and I’ve adopted Dorothy Sayer’s approach to introducing this with our own kids.

In The Lost Tools of Learning, Dorothy Sayers (a contemporary of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien) discusses how the educational programs of her day (her article was presented in 1947!) failed to help students to learn to think critically.

According to Sayers, there are a number of key skills that are necessary in order for a student to be able to think critically for him or herself.  They include the ability to:

– Disentangle opinion from fact;
– Discern the proven from the plausible;
– Meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side of a point or position under debate;
– Bring only relevant matter to a debate or discussion;
– Move forward discussions to reach a consensus (for example, as the chair of a committee);
– Define the terms used in an argument and use them accordingly;
– Discern when a book or position piece is sound, scholarly and properly documented and presented;
– Break down arguments in the formal syllogism to understand how they flow and if they are logical; and
– Construct arguments themselves.

If a student masters these skills, then he can transfer his knowledge to other fields not his own and still be competent in them, or competent enough to learn them.

Sound daunting?

I doesn’t have to be.

Several excellent Christian organizations, including Stand to Reason, are seeking to help young Christians grapple with how to understand assertions like: “There are many ways to get to heaven” and “Science disproves God.”  However, all of these target older students – often pre-college ones.  This is likely a time when students have already faced challenges and may already be struggling with their faith, or do not have the foundation of critical thinking necessary to evaluate opposing ideas.

Remember, there is some consensus that the average age for a spiritual crisis is now 13.

Sayers lays out a model for building critical thinking skills in our children at an earlier age.  I’ll outline the process in my next post, but suffice it to say for now that her approach is embedded in all the activities I’ve done to date with our kids, many of which are shared on this site.

What do you think?  Are you surprised with the young age at which kids are grappling with their faith?  What are you doing to help inoculate your kids?



Leave a Comment
  1. B. Scott / Sep 28 2015 10:33 pm

    This is very true. My daughter has had a major faith crisis beginning at around 12 or 13. I wasn’t prepared for such a thing at her age. I thought the college years would be more likely to bring this type of struggle.

    • BTM / Oct 1 2015 10:05 am

      Thanks for sharing. You strike a chord in me as my oldest son is 10. Our children’s faith has been so easy thus far. I know that I can’t assume it always will be – in fact, as parents we should never assume an easy ride for our kids’ faith. It’s hard to anticipate what they will struggle with, but I think that making a point of raising issues before we notice them in our children’s lives will help to keep the dialogue open, hopefully communicate that our kids are welcome to question their faith, and possibly give them a chance to think about objections to Christianity from us first (before hearing them from elsewhere). Is your daughter still struggling? Have you found ways to walk through her struggles together?

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