An article recently crossed my desk about the 75-Year Harvard Study on Adult Development that has some powerful findings. This study started in 1938 to track the health of 738 men and has continued and expanded since then. Their goal was to study human health over the lifespan to understand what leads to a healthy and happy life.

The main take home point? People who were healthiest and happiest over their lives were not the wealthy or the famous but the ones who had close relationships.

“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”

It doesn’t matter how many people you know or even if you are married or in a committed relationship. What matters is the quality of the relationships. We live happier and healthier, and handle stress and struggles better, when we can be vulnerable or share our deep thoughts and feelings in our relationships. Relationships in which we can relax and be ourselves, and also be seen for who we truly are help to keep us physically and mentally healthier.

Teaching our kids this truth about life is critical.

The Harvard study confirms what we know to be true about our Faith. Being a Christian is not, primarily, about following rules or reciting a creed, but about being in relationships with God and others. We have rules and we have a Creed that point us toward a deep relationship with a God who desires to be in a relationship with us! This is important for us, as adults, to know, and critically important for our teens to learn and understand, as they try to figure out and navigate life.

This is why I’ve been working with Faithtree Resources to help clergy, youth directors, and Sunday school teachers focus on building meaningful relationships with their teens as the path toward helping our teens understand and experience life, God, and Church.

Check out the new video series, “Your youth ministry makeover” that offers specific and simple strategies that focus on building relationships as the foundation for engaging our kids in the life of the Church. Faithtree seeks to develop materials to help us live as Church as we are teaching our kids about Christ and His Church.

How we engage our teens is just as important as what we teach as we help teens learn the path to living truly happy and healthy lives in relationships with God and others.

Written by: Dr. Philip Mamalakis
M.Div., Ph.D., LMFT,
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Care,
Holy Cross School of Theology, Boston, MA