Way They Should Go

Promoting Our Children’s Spiritual Health

Everyone has plenty of opinions on what it means to raise up a child in the way that he or she should go. But when there is quantifiable research to back up certain methods, we are wise to pay attention. LifeWay Research recently conducted a study with the parents of 3,472 adult children who had been raised to be Christian by their parents. There were eight observable points assigned to try and measure the spiritual health of the adult children: (1) They identify as “Christian”, (2) they share their faith with unbelievers, (3) they actively attend a church, (4) they read the Bible regularly, (5) they have a serving role in a church, (6) they teach others at church, (7) they serve in the community, (8) they support local or foreign missions. 
The research was looking to see of those grown children who scored the highest, what were the factors that contributed to them becoming dedicated Christian adults? Of the 3,472 adult children studied, 85% of them were at least 1-point on the scale, meaning they at least identified as Christian. A full 39% of those surveyed fit this category, but also said they did nothing else besides wearing the name “Christian.” Another 11% did not identify as Christian. But what about those who scored higher? What factors drive young people to stay in the faith, and even more, to actually practice their faith as adults? 
The research investigated 40 different factors, and there were five practices that showed a significant correlation between the child’s younger years and their later taking ownership in their faith. The five most common factors were:
  • 29% regularly read the Bible on their own. (This factor alone could predict a 12.5% higher likelihood a child was going to stay dedicated to God.)
  • 28% had a regular prayer life
  • 33% regularly served in church
  • 22% listened primarily to Christian music, rather than secular
  • 27% had participated in a church mission trip
Those conducting the research noted that if a child had all five of these practices in their youth, this made them 41% more likely to become active Christian adults.
Parents, there were also several behaviors that showed great promise in helping children develop those life-shaping habits. The parents who were most successful:
  • Read the Bible several times per week
  • Took part in a service project or mission trip as a family
  • Shared their faith with unbelievers
  • Encouraged their teenagers to serve in church
  • Asked forgiveness when they messed up as a parent
  • Encouraged their children’s unique talents and interests
  • Took annual family vacations
  • Attended churches with teaching that emphasized “what the Bible says”
  • Taught their children to tithe
What is interesting to me about this research is that the findings seem so obvious. We need to be deliberate about our choices and actions because our children observe and repeat them. Are we actually reading the Word and listen to things that inspire us? Do we actually make time to pray? Do we generously support the church? Do we serve in God’s mission locally and abroad? When parents model this behavior and then encourage it in the lives of your children, the research shows, again and again, it pays off. Don’t neglect the fundamentals!  
To learn more about this research, you can find the study here.

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