We are a nation of believers. Mostly. A Gallup poll last year found that 91 percent of Americans believed in God or some universal spirit. Yet a more recent poll by WIN-Gallup International and published by Religion News Service found that the number of Americans who say they are “religious” dropped from 73 percent in 2005 to 60 percent today. And in that poll, 5 percent of Americans said they are atheists, up from 1 percent in 2005.

Believing in God doesn’t necessarily translate to belonging to an organized religion. And parents who do not belong to a religious institution, as well as those who don’t believe in a higher power, are faced with a difficult question: How do they instill spirituality and faith in the children?

Kara E. Powell, assistant professor of youth and family ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., says parents need to make themselves available to talk about spirituality and religion at home. They should be extra diligent in making faith a topic that can be discussed so that children won’t be confused or ashamed about any observations or questions they might have. Even if there is no organized religion in the home, she says, religious holidays such as Easter and Hanukkah and their rituals can be one of the entry points into the discussion.

“(Another) thing we’ve seen that’s powerful is using current events,” says Powell, whose book “Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids” (Zondervan), offers parents ways to develop long-term faith in teenagers. “Why would God allow X amount of people to be killed in a hurricane or earthquake? Use it as a springboard to talk to kids.”

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