One of the key responsibilities of Christian parents is helping their children to learn about and, hopefully, respond to the claims of Jesus Christ as the Saviour of their lives. However, how effective are we in achieving this?
Doing this is not easy, and everyone's pathway is different. Do you say collective grace before meals? Do you read the Bible together? Do you tell children Bible stories before they go to bed? Do you all go to church together on Sunday? Can you answer their questions about creation and evolution, faith and science, suffering and war? As they grow older, do you send them on Christian camps in the summer? Encourage them to join the school or university Christian Union? Should children be sent to a Christian school?*
Every parent will have different answers to these questions and every family has to work it out in the way best suited for them. When researchers want to know if you've been successful, how do you then measure "success"? Every few years the British Social Attitudes (BSA) annual survey asks questions looking at probably the most simplistic answer to this question. Are today's present and former churchgoing adults in the same denomination as they were brought up in, have they changed to another group, or now simply say they have "no religion"? A simple question, but it yields interesting answers especially for Church of England families.
In 1995, half of the 3,000+ respondents who were interviewed (54%) said they had grown up in a Church of England family. By the time they were interviewed as adults (which might range from their
being 18 to 88!) 30% said they were still Church of England, 4% had joined other denominations and 20% said they now had no religion.
Fifteen years later, in 2010, only two-fifths (39%) of 3,000+ different interviewees had grown up in a Church of England family, and while half that number (19%) were still Church of England, 2% had
joined other denominations, 1% had joined another religion altogether and 17% said they now had no religion.
The "success" rate has dropped a bit, but still roughly half of those brought up as Anglicans have remained Anglicans. A few have found faith practices elsewhere, but the majority of the rest seem to have lost their religion, and presumably any faith they had, altogether. Is such a loss "normal"? The Roman Catholics had about a third of their children lose their religion in both years, and those in other denominations had a third saying they had no religion in 1995 and half in 2010. So the Church of England doesn't do quite as well as Roman Catholics in retaining people in the faith but achieves about the same as other Christian denominations.
What this shows is that the issue of passing on the faith is of major importance in retaining the next generation in church. Happily, Christian parenting is now becoming a recognised issue in our
churches with books such as The Parenting Book by Nicky and Sila Lee, FamiliesFirst magazine, HTB parenting courses, etc. all readily available.
Dr Peter Brierley is a church consultant who may be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
April 25th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Peter Brierley