As a parent right alongside you, I found this article on “Keeping the Faith” encouraging and thought you might enjoy it too. Christian Smith is a sociologist who has studied religious life in America for almost two decades. He wanted to know how parents pass on their faith to their children. He has a Ph.D. from Harvard, but this isn’t essential to figuring this out. 😉 God’s Word tells us how to disciple our children to be fully-devoted followers of Christ. The article is just a confirmation and a reminder of what we already know. Here are the findings:
- “Among all possible influences, parents exert far and away the greatest influence on their children’s religious outcomes.”
- “American youth who have grown up to be religiously committed almost always had parents who were very religiously committed.”
- “So, what can committed, religious parents do to increase their chances of raising children who, as young adults, believe and practice some version of their religion? The first answer is simply to be themselves: believe and practice their own religion genuinely and faithfully.”
- Specific traits:
- Parenting Style. “Though the influence of parenting style is known to vary somewhat by race and ethnicity, it is broadly true that the religious parents who most successfully raise religious children tend to exhibit an “authoritative” parenting style. Such parents combine two crucial traits. First, they consistently hold their children to clear and demanding expectations, standards, and boundaries in all areas of life. Second, they relate to their children with an abundance of warmth, support, and expressive care.”
- Routine Talking about Religion. “A second trait of parents who successfully pass on religious faith and practice to their children is that, as a normal part of family life during the week, they talk with their children about religious things—what they believe and practice, what it means and implies, and why it matters to them.”
- Channeling for Internalization. “The goal of religious channeling is for children to personalize and internalize their religious faith and identity over time… Research suggests that among the most important of these channeling influences is the presence of non-family adults in religious congregations who know the children well and can engage them in talk on serious topics, beyond superficial chitchat.”
Those sociological findings confirm what the Bible tells us in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, “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 starts with parents. As parents, our passionate love for the Lord Jesus Christ is the single most powerful influence in our children’s lives. God’s Word must be on our own hearts before we can pass them on to our children. I encourage you to devote daily to the reading of His Word. If you need help to figure out how, please let me know. It would be my privilege to connect you with people and resources to grow in this spiritual discipline.
The school is a partner. Thank you for trusting LCA as a partner to come alongside you in the spiritual discipleship of your children. It is a responsibility that we hold sacred knowing that we are accountable before the Lord. We strive for excellence in our academic, arts, athletics, and student leadership programs, but not for the sake of the programs alone. Our mission is that through those programs, your children have opportunities to personalize and internalize their faith through meaningful conversations with staff, teachers, and coaches.
The local church is the third leg. It’s hard to balance a stool on two legs. It takes three — the family, the school, and the local church, working together, to give our students the best possible opportunity to be Warriors for Christ. Parenting is hard work and the support of a church is crucial, not only for the sake of our children but for our own spiritual growth as parents. It’s hard to grow in isolation. I know that the last two years of COVID have made it difficult for some families to stay connected to a local church. If you’ve disconnected, don’t feel ashamed, but please take action. I encourage you to find a local body of believers to come alongside you and your family. We have great churches represented within our LCA community. To help provide a resource for families looking for a church home, we are compiling a directory of churches represented within our school community that we will send out. Please let us know if you need help connecting to a church.
Let us continue to live a life worthy of the calling to which we’ve been called so that as parents we may tell our children of God’s mighty acts and proclaim His power (Ephesians 4:1, Psalm 145:4).