Mom and dad remain the most powerful influencers of children and their faith


A household with two Protestant parents bears the greatest likelihood that children raised there will follow that faith, according to a new Pew Research Study.

The report, released Oct. 26, explored the faith of those whose parents reflected a single or mixed religious background. Subjects also included single-parent homes and those claiming no religion at all, or Nones. When parents diverged on religion, the study indicated children were more likely adopt the mother’s religious identity.

In U .S., one-in-five raised with mixed religious background

The number of those raised in a religiously-mixed home remains relatively small. However, that figure grows each passing generation. Only 13 percent of households in the Silent (Greatest) Generation represented two religious backgrounds. That number increased to 19 percent under Baby Boomers. A slight uptick to 20 percent occurred among Generation X. Millennials, those born from 1981-1996, grew up with 27 percent of households having parents of two different religions.

Percentage higher among Protestants

In homes where parents were Protestant, children followed suit 79 percent of the time. Homes where parents claimed no affiliation with any religion brought a 62 percent figure of children doing the same.

Among homes with one parent a Protestant and the other Unaffiliated, 56 percent of children identify as Protestant. Less than a quarter of respondents belonged to the Protestant denomination of their parent when the other parent claimed no religious affiliation.

Mom and dad as influencers

When asked which parent served as the biggest influence on their religious upbringing, 66 percent credited both their mother and father. Between the two, though, mothers were the runaway winner. Respondents among Protestants cited mom 28 percent of the time as the primary religious influencer versus dad’s five percent. In addition, Americans revealed that in a home with one religiously-affiliated parent and one not, it was 63 percent likely mom would be the former.

Most say their parents shared equally in their religious upbringing, but if one was mainly responsible, it was usually mom

Those numbers bring concern and a call for fathers to be more involved with their children’s spiritual development, says Glen McCall.

“Years ago I was wondering how best to teach my son to be a Christian man,” points out McCall, Georgia Baptist Mission Board state missionary in Men’s Ministries. “It occurred to me that it wasn’t about just what I wanted to teach him, but how he would go on to lead his own son – my grandson.

“The main thing I can do is keep my son in the Word, specifically looking at texts that relate to being a young man. We need to be familiar with general discipleship responsibilities outlined in the Bible.”

Passing it on

McCall points to familiar passages in Scripture teaching on being a godly husband and father such as Ephesians 5-6. Books such as Robert Lewis’ Raising a Modern-Day Knight provide valuable resources for fathers. Such steps aren’t easy today, he admits.

Glen McCall Glen McCall

“When we see things being promoted on the news and the public discourse today, we can either let it shut us down or respond.

“See the news as a way to find prayer needs,” he encourages. “Each of those headlines represents an opportunity for us to become ambassadors for Christ. It happens with our actions and how we respond.”

He went on to cite Deuteronomy 6:4-9 as an example for keeping the principles of Scripture near.

“In developing our work through Men’s Ministries, we lay out things to pray for and look at stories of the day as items of prayer. We talk about showing God’s Word through each and every opportunity, making it a teachable moment.”

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