"NASHVILLE, Tenn.,– The vast majority of parents hope their children grow up to live good lives, but for many, parental success does not include faith in God – even among parents who are evangelical Christians, according to a new study from LifeWay Research.
The national survey of 1,200 adults with children under 18 at home was conducted by LifeWay Research, the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources, for the new book The Parent Adventure: Preparing your children for a lifetime with God by Rodney and Selma Wilson and Scott McConnell B&H Publishing Group.
The study found the most common definitions of successful parenting include children having good values 25 percent, being happy adults 25 percent, finding success in life 22 percent, being a good person 19 percent, graduating from college 17 percent, and living independently 15 percent. Being godly or having faith in God is mentioned by 9 percent of respondents.
Parents who attend religious services weekly are particularly likely to emphasize faith in God, but only 24 percent of them identify that as a mark of parenting success, the research found.
'We are seeing an ever-widening gulf in American believers between the private faith and a faith that is passed on,' said McConnell, who serves as associate director of LifeWay Research. 'Instead, we too often see an emphasis on guiding children to a social morality and toward an as-yet undefined ‘happy’ life.'
Influences and goals
While the vast majority 83 percent believes parents should be most responsible for a child’s spiritual development, only 35 percent say their religious faith is one of the most important influences on their parenting, according to the study. This leaves nearly half 48 percent who acknowledge their role in their child’s spiritual development, but fail to consider their own religious faith among the most important influences on their parenting.
Pushing out to either end of the religious spectrum, the study found that almost a third of all parents either have no religious faith or say religious faith has little or no influence on their parenting. Conversely, among born-again Christians, 29 percent say faith is not among the most important influences on their parenting. Stetzer added, 'When self-identifying Christians are not able to say that faith is a priority for parenting, we should not be surprised at the prevalence of church drop outs in the younger generation.'
Asked if they have a written plan or goal for what they want to accomplish as parents, a full 33 percent say they have no plan or goal at all. Among those who attend religious services weekly and evangelicals, 76 percent say they have a plan, either written or unwritten."