Who is responsible for building up the faith of children? Parents or pastors?

This article is from Probe Ministries. (H/T The Poached Egg)


In 2010, we commissioned a survey to help us examine the causes and potential opportunities to change the marked shift in the thinking of young adults over the last decade. We surveyed over 800 born again, young adults across America to get an understanding for what they thought about spiritual and cultural issues and how they felt about their beliefs and actions. One area of questioning was, “When you think about how you developed the religious beliefs you hold today, who do you feel had the greatest influence on you? Did your beliefs come from your family, your friends, your church, your independent studies, your college professors, or others?”

The answers we received to this question were not shocking but still sobering. Over sixty-five percent of the respondents reported that the source that had the greatest influence on their religious beliefs was a family member, with the vast majority of those saying it was parents or grandparents. Over twenty percent of the respondents pointed to another influential individual such as a pastor, youth leader, or college professor. Only about eleven percent stated that something less personal such as a youth group or the Bible was the greatest influencer of their religious beliefs.

As Christian Smith noted, “What the best empirical evidence shows . . . is that . . . when it comes to religion, parents are in fact hugelyimportant.”{5}In fact, “religious commitments, practices, and investments made during childhood and the teenage years, by parents and others in families and religious communities, matter – they make a difference.”{6}

Of those who stated that a family member was the primary influence, over seven out of ten stated it was their mother or grandmother while less than three out of ten said it was their father or grandfather. So clearly amongst born again young adults, the female side of the family has a greater influence in passing down religious beliefs than do the males. One can postulate that this may be due to a combination of greater spiritual involvement on the female side of the family and a higher level of communication with their children. However, the rate of fatherly influence almost doubles for young adults with a biblical worldview compared to those without such a worldview. So it appears that fathers who hold a biblical worldview are much more likely to be involved in establishing the spiritual beliefs of their children.

Less than one out of ten of the respondents listed a pastor as the primary source of influence, and only three percent listed a youth group. These church-related functions may have an important role in helping to shape our religious beliefs, but our survey shows that it is at best a secondary role for the vast majority of people. We are mistaken if we are relying on the church to pass on the right type of beliefs to our children. Parents, what you communicate through your lives is picked up by your children. What are you communicating to them concerning religious beliefs?

I have been working through a Bible study with a regular WK-reader (Tracy) and we are going through Deuteronomy right now. Today (Thursday) I read Deuteronomy 6-8. And here are a couple of verses that I think you should see related to this topic.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.

Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.

Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

It’s our responsibility to teach our children, and if you don’t have children, then you just pick someone else who is willing to listen to you. We must all make an effort.

4 thoughts on “Who is responsible for building up the faith of children? Parents or pastors?”

  1. How do you know I’m regular? I only ever comment when I have something to complain about and that’s rare.

    I love Deut 6: 4 – 9 too. I just barely caught the emphasis on parents teaching their children. I was more impressed with its emphasis on keeping God’s law on our mind always and treating it with utmost importance.


  2. I couldn’t help but notice that this says it “surveyed over 800 born again, young adults across America”, but it made a specific distinction between “born again adults” with a Biblical worldview, and those without. It’s not strictly relevant to your point, but I definitely don’t like it, since it seems to be supporting the idea that you only need to identify as Christian to be born again, and that you do not actually necessarily need to adjust your worldview (which strongly influences the way you live) to really be a Christian.


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