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Barna survey show moms’ impact a child’s faith more than dads’ do

Credit: George Webster/ Commons

A study conducted by the Barna Group in conjunction with the Lutheran Hour Ministries concluded that mothers played a more significant role in the development of their children’s faith than the fathers.

In 2018, Barna surveyed 2,347 people described as committed Christians to find out who influenced them spiritually. The survey reported:

  • 68% said they were most influenced by their mothers,
  • 46% attributed their fathers,
  • 37% grandparents,
  • 16% non relative,
  • 14% a friend, and
  • 59% said their faith was passed down to them from their parents.

This study shows the profound impact mothers can have on their children and according to the Apostle Paul it was Timothy’s mother (Eunice) and grandmother (Lois) who most impacted Timothy, who went on to be a key leader in the early church.

For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:5 NASV)

In fact, the lack of reference to Timothy’s dad suggests he probably was not a Christian. We do know that Timothy’s mother Eunice was a Jewess and his father was Greek (Acts 16:1), which explains why Timothy wasn’t circumcised.

According to 2 Timothy 3:14-15, Timothy’s mother and probably grandmother actively taught Timothy the Bible, which impacted the future pastor of Ephesus.

But though moms are credited with passing on the faith in the Barna study, the dads have an equally important influence, but it may be more subliminal.

I wrote an article five years ago about an analysis of census statistics gathered by the Swiss government conducted by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner. They found that the fathers had a profound impact on the future church attendance of the children.

The study showed that if both mom and dad attended church regularly then at least 74% of their children attended church at least occasionally:

  • 33% of their children attend regularly,
  • 41% irregularly, and
  • 26% did not attend at all.

But if the father was irregular and the mother a regular church attender, the children’s regular church attendance dropped significantly from 33% to 3%:

  • 3% of the children were regular church attendees,
  • 59% irregular, and
  • 38% did not attend at all.

But the best church attendance (regularly and occasionally) by the children took place when the father regularly attended church and the mother was irregular, even beating the statistics when both parents regularly attended church:

  • 38% of the children regularly attended church,
  • 44% attended irregularly and
  • 18% did not attend at all.

Why would that be the case?

I am not sure, but is it possible when the father regularly attended church, he may have been pressured by the mother to do so and when the father attended church more often than the mother, it spoke more of his sincere faith?

The Barna study also showed that 14% of those surveyed were impacted most by a friend and another 16% by a non relative. This suggests that they probably came from a non Christian family and were converted to the Christian faith by others.


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