Is Faith “Taught or Caught?” The Answer is YES! In this article in the Huffington Post, which may or may not be on your daily culture reading list, we find the conclusions drawn from a recent survey on the factors that most effectively contribute to faith practices in young adults. In short…parents who communicate and demonstrate the importance of faith in THEIR LIVES through their PROCLAMATION and their ACTIONS transmit the importance of faith to their children/teens…and it “sticks” through their young adult years when most studies claim that most people fall away from their faith.
“…sociologists Christopher Bader and Scott Desmond found that children of parents who believe that religion is very important and display their commitment by attending services are most likely to transmit religiosity to their children.“
Of course it is anecdotal on my part, but I believe that my faith was directly communicated by my parents…both good and bad. I came to faith in Christ at a church service when my dad AND mom took me to church (age 9). When “mean people” in that church acted judgmentally toward my dad (age 10 for me), we stopped attending. I did not see the inside of another church until around age 14 or so. Then, dad took us to another church where he was committed and served and invited me to serve alongside him (as a Junior Usher no doubt). I even began wearing a slick little sport coat to church and everything.
In fact, dad taught me my early beliefs about “giving an offering” at church in those early days. I still remember the message he taught me (which was biblically wrong then and he would reject himself today). Later in my late 20s and 30s as I felt the calling to ministry and began to preach, Dad again shaped my faith. He went with me on most occasions that I preached in other churches. [This deserved the big award…since those were horrible sermons…but he went and offered great encouragement. He even called around to help me schedule additional opportunities.]
The point is, I learned much about the importance of faith through what my dad said and did. Honestly, I learned much of the substance of theology, hermeneutics, homiletics, apologetics, etc. from my pastor, Bible college, and Seminary…but my “heart” for “faith” was first transmitted to me by my dad. Many of the early anchor points (good and bad) were transmitted to me by my dad.
So, as a pastor and dad myself now, it often grieves me when I see moms and dads transmitting dangerous faith lessons to their kids: when they prioritize travel ball over church, or cheer practice over student ministry, or fishing over soul winning. I am grieved when they teach their kids to hold loosely to community allegiance by changing churches so that their kids can experience the latest “cool” thing in ministry (insert your flashiest new outreach or ministry program here). I am grieved when faith is rarely discussed in the home or when opportunities to demonstrate reliance on God are passed up in times of major decisions or planning.
In closing let me offer one last tidbit: moms and dads, you communicate more about the importance of depending on God when you speak of and live dependently. Actually PRAY before major decisions. Actually plan vacations around church events. Actually be “caught” reading your Bible and serving in your church. If you do or do not…you’ll be amazed at how your faith shapes the faith of your children throughout their lives.
NOTE: I spoke of my dad throughout this article. In no way am I diminishing my mom’s contribution. She was a woman of faith. She was there throughout the journey. I simply watched and emulated my dad more. I believe part of that is the fact that, well you know, I am a guy. The other part relates to the biblical reality that dads have amazing and God-ordained leadership roles in the lives of their children. Single moms have it tough. Married moms with husbands who are disinterested in practicing their faith have it TOUGHER since mom now has to counteract the influence of the father and attempt to win her children to a strong faith position even though her husband is ACTIVELY leading the children to another faith position, though not faith in God. THANK GOD my mom did not have to overcome my dad’s influence…and THANK GOD she too was influenced by it and communicated a consistent message to her children.