How Parents Affect Their Children’s Faith (the Latest Findings)

How Parents Affect Their Children's Faith (the Latest Findings)

The biggest influence on children’s faith is parents. And this includes spiritual influence as well. Whether positive or negative, parents, by their words and actions, heavily weigh in on the trajectory of their child’s spiritual life.

That being said, it’s important to be aware of how today’s parents are affecting their child’s faith. Pew Research, a secular organization, recently released a report about this very subject. Let’s take a look at it together.

First of all, let’s establish who Millennial parents are. They are young adults who are currently 18 to 35 years old. They are the young adults who are parenting babies, preschoolers and elementary kids.

  • 27 percent of Millennial parents were raised with a mixed religious household.
  • 24 percent of Millennial parents were raised by at least one parent who was a religious “none” (a “none” is some who is not associated with any religion).
  • 15 percent of Millennial parents were raised by at least one parent who was religious and one who was a “none.”
  • 6 percent of Millennial parents were raised by households where both parents were nones.
  • 3 percent of Millennial parents were raised by a single parent who was a none.
  • Only 24 percent of Millennial parents were raised by two Protestant parents. This is compared to 48 percent of previous generations who were raised by two Protestant parents.

So how does this affect children’s faith? You can see the results in the faith of the Millennial parents who were raised in these households.

  • 62 percent of Millennials, who were raised by a single parent who was a none, now identify as nones.
  • 38 percent of Millennials, who were raised by one parent who was religious and one who was not, now identify as nones.
  • 26 percent of Millennials, who were raised by one Protestant and one Catholic parent, now identify as nones.
  • 20 percent of Millennials, who were raised by two Catholic parents, now identify as a none.
  • 14 percent of Millennials, who were raised by two Protestant parents, now identify as a none.
  • 25 percent of Millennials say their spouse does not share their religion.
Let’s take a look at the impact mothers have. 
  • 40 percent of those raised in households where both parents shared the same religion, say their mother was far more responsible for their religious upbringing than their father.
  • 46 percent of those raised by parents who had different religions, say their mother was the biggest influence on their faith.
  • 63 percent of those raised by one parent who was religious and one who was a none, say their mother was mainly responsible for their religious upbringing.

What spiritual influence are Millennial parents bringing to their children today?

  • 75 percent of parents married to spouses of the same religion say they pray or read Scripture with their children.
  • 70 percent of parents married to spouses of the same religion say they send their children to religious education programs such as Sunday School.
  • 82 percent of households where one parent is religious and the other is a none, say their child is being raised in a religion.

Are parents passing their faith on to their children?

  • Among those who say they were raised exclusively by Protestants, roughly 80 percent now identify with Protestantism, including 80 percent of those raised by two Protestant parents and 75 percent of those raised by a single parent who was Protestant.
  • Among those raised by one Protestant and one religious “none,” 56 percent now identify with Protestantism, while 34 percent are religiously unaffiliated.
  • Those who were raised by a Protestant and a Catholic, are divided among those who now identify with Protestantism (38 percent), Catholicism (29 percent) and no religion (26 percent).

What about single parents passing on their faith?

Whether one was raised by two people who shared the same faith or by a single parent seems to have little effect on whether that person carries the religion of his or her parent or parents into adulthood. Among adults who were raised by two Catholic parents, for instance, 62 percent describe themselves as Catholics today, as do 58 percent of those raised by a single parent who was Catholic.
Are parents taking their children to church?
  • 65 percent of parents attend worship service with their children at least a few times a year.
  • 83 percent of evangelical parents are taking their children to church.
  • 78 percent of Catholic parents are taking their children to church.
  • 67 percent of mainline Protestant parents are taking their children to church.
  • 69 percent of parents, who are nones, say they seldom or never take their children to church.
Look closer at these stats and you’ll see the spiritual story line that is being written for the next generation. If we want to change the story line of the next generation, then we must see the writers changed…their parents.
 
How will this happen?
We must always be thinking parents. We should always keep parents in mind when we are strategizing, planning and preparing.
 
We must always be influencing parents. We can do this by speaking into their lives weekly and at key times such as baby dedication, graduations, baptisms, etc.
 
We must always be partnering with parents. We should always be looking for ways to close the gap between church and home.
We must always be encouraging parents. Parenting is not easy. If you are one, you know that. Influencing parents will not happen by scolding them for what they are not doing, but through inspiring and encouraging them about the spiritual influence they can have.
We must always be empowering parents. We can do this by equipping them with the tools, resources and knowledge they need to impact their children spiritually.
 
Your turn. The floor is yours. How do you influence parents in your ministry?
This article originally appeared here.
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Dale Hudson
Dale Hudson has been serving in children's ministry for over 28 years. He is an author, speaker and ministry leader.  He is the founder and director of Building Children's Ministry. BCM helps churches build strong leaders, teams and children's ministries.  (www.buildingchildrensministry.com)

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