How to Pass Along a Faith that Lasts to Your Kids

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A few weeks ago, I blogged about the misperception that millennials are losing their faith. In that post, I mentioned two facts that will springboard us to today’s topic of faith retention:

 1. Young people are not leaving the church in droves.

2. Of all young adults that do leave the church, only 11 percent came from homes where a consistent/serious faith was practiced, whereas 89 percent came from lukewarm or no-faith homes.

In other words, what parents do to build faith into their kids matters. A parent’s role in passing along their religious beliefs is the most important contributor to faith consistency in children.

On to the obvious question: how can moms and dads best ensure their children carry their faith into adulthood?

Turns out the single best thing parents can do to pass on their religious beliefs is to live out an authentic, vibrant faith themselves. One researcher even called parents “the most important pastor a child will ever have in their life.”

Makes sense, doesn’t it? If we’re just going through the motions of faith, it won’t stick.

There’s another reason why actively modeling the faith is so vital: the second most important factor in faith retention is for the child himself to develop spiritual habits, like regular prayer and Scripture reading. Similar to a toddler who intently watches her mom and mimics her every movement, children observe their parents’ lives and will pick up the practices they regularly see their parents engage in. 

As much as intentional parenting matters, though, we would be wise to remember that salvation and faith are supernatural matters. As such, I urge you to pray for your children, trust the Holy Spirit to speak into their hearts, and rely on the grace of God.

You can read more about faith retention in a study compiled by our very own Glenn Stanton that’s available for reading and download online at Focus Findings. Another recommended resource for parents is the book “Sticky Faith,” which is available at our online bookstore. Finally, our website has a robust section dedicated to the topic: Spiritual Growth for Kids.

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Leave a Comment

Jenna Hallock More than 1 year ago

-- I agree with the sentiments below that it's possible to be a "good" parent and children can still go in a "bad" direction. But I appreciate what this article sets forth: We are only responsible for showing our kids the way to Christ.

When we live out our faith in Jesus in a way that is real and honest (including admitting that we are not perfect), it's the Holy Spirit's job to do the rest.

I'd recommend Family Time Training (famtime.com) for simple activity based resources that can help you to bring the Bible into your family's home.

Kay Meadows More than 1 year ago

--I would encourage parents to pray with their young children.  I have three millennial sons (two in church, one not) who remember us praying together.  We used index cards with pictures of Bible characters which prompted us to pray that we could be "brave like David who trusted God" or that we could ""stand up for what is right like Shadrrach, Meshach, and Abednego"  or that we would "pray in difficult times like Daniel" etc.  Praying together is wonderful way to share your spiritual goals and confess your failures.  

Even my son who is not in church appreciates my prayers for him now.    

Ben Sam More than 1 year ago

--Bad children are not the result of bad parenting; though bad parenting is not a good thing for our children (of which I am quilty).  God is the perfect Parent, yet I make bad mistakes everyday.  Thankfully He is faithful even when I am not.  

Thanks for the article.  I am trying to find good family devotional type naterials, any good suggestions??

By His Grace,

Jamie Herzog More than 1 year ago

--Live out your faith so your kids see and imitate it:)

Randy Robison More than 1 year ago

--I would agree that stable Christian homes can have children that stray from the faith but I think that is very rare and I am reluctant to mention the possibility.  I am hesitant to call myself a good parent because I know I have deficiencies.  I must depend on God but I know I don't do that perfectly.  My wife and I have four children who embrace God (three in college and one in HS).  If they stray from God at some point, I will feel the weight of that as a parent.  My wife and I have recently felt the need to pray more consistently for them.  It is getting harder to live for Christ in this world.  

I do not believe that children will grow up to follow God only because they had "godly parents".  I know of people who had horrible upbringings and embraced Christ.  It is the grace of God that any of us follow Him and I do believe that those who turn to Christ have been prayed for by someone in this life.  On the other hand, I know of too many parents who do not want the blame for the way their children turned out.  They call themselves "good parents", but if they were honest with themselves they would acknowledge their flaws and holes in their parenting.      

Gretchen Canterbury More than 1 year ago

--I agree with Judilyn. There are thousands of prodigals that do come from godly homes. Once they are grown, all we can do is love them and pray for them consistently. I believe that God will eventually answer our prayers, but it is so hard to wait and watch them make choice after choice that isn't God-honoring or God-fearing in the least. I recommend praying the book, Prayers for Prodigals, by James Banks, every day with your husband or a prayer partner--even over the phone works!

Lois DuBose More than 1 year ago

--Well said!  It is something that has been of great concern to me the number of children that do leave the church from so-called Christian homes. I believe you hit the nail on the head that most of these are lukewarm or no faith homes.  I have personally come to the conclusion that in these homes there is inconsistency in the parent's lives between their talk and the walk, or no teaching.  Some think just taking them to church they will get it.  

I can certainly attest to it being God's grace and the Holy Spirit working in our children's lives.  Fear can either move one to inactivity or move  one to action.  For my fear of not knowing how to train my children in the ways of the Lord, that I might fail, moved me to pray a lot and to strive to diligently teach our children the Word of God.  God was faithful and I am blessed to have four adult children who love the Lord; who are faithfully serving Him and training their children to love God and to live for Him.  God did not give me my children for the devil to have them.  I went to battle in prayer for my kids, and I do the same now for them and my 11 grandchildren.

Judi Buller More than 1 year ago

--As a parent who has worked hard to live my faith consistently in front of my children, and suffered years of guilt and anguish over the ones who rejected God (at least for now), I know that sometimes good parents have bad children.  We all have sinful natures, and our own choices to make.  Bad children are the result of their own choices, not always bad parenting, and it doesn't help anyone to put the blame solely on the parents.  Think about the opposite - good children who come from bad homes.  Would you say the same about them?

I was called by God to raise Godly children, and our homeschool's primary focus was Godly character.  I did everything I could to show them how much I love them, at the same time holding them to biblical standards of obedience.  Two responded by giving their lives to God, two are still hungering after worldliness.  I just keep praying and loving.

Randy Robison More than 1 year ago

--The reason that managing our household well is a requirement for church leadership is because the way it is managed has a direct correlation to how the children turn out.  Disobedient children that move on to adulthood as disobedient adults is a direct reflection on the parents.  Bad children are the result of bad parents!