Mar 30, 2022

How Concerned Are Christian Parents About Their Children’s Faith Formation?

BU header of family photo for parents' concerns article

Recent Barna data collected in 2021 show that most parents, regardless of religious identity or faith practice, want their children to have a healthy relationship with spirituality. Christian parents—especially those who are practicing Christians—are the most adamant about this.

This article explores parents’ responses around two key questions about their children’s spiritual development, taking a closer look at Christian parents and offering data on how children’s relationships with peers can support their faith formation journey.

73% of U.S. Parents Are Concerned About Their Children’s Spiritual Development
When asked how concerned they are about their children’s faith formation, nearly three-quarters of American parents said they were at least somewhat concerned (37% very, 36% somewhat).

While self-identified Christian parents are significantly more likely than non-Christian parents to say they are “very” concerned about this (42% vs. 27%), the majority of both groups is at least somewhat interested in ensuring their children have a healthy relationship with spirituality (80% Christian parents, 58% non-Christian parents). When looking specifically at parents who are practicing Christians—self-identified Christians who have attended a worship service within the past month and strongly agree their faith is very important to their life—half (51%) are “very” concerned about their children’s spiritual development.

Are parents worried their children may leave the faith they were raised in as they grow older and prepare to leave home? Amid a growing trend of “church dropouts,” the answer is yes. Seven in 10 U.S. parents (70%) say they are at least somewhat concerned about their children staying true to their spiritual faith—a pattern that again remains consistent across faith practice.

Over two in five self-identified Christian parents (43%) are “very” concerned about this, while about one-quarter of non-Christian parents (26%) says the same. Practicing Christian parents express the most concern (58% very, 28% somewhat) and want their children to stay true to their Christian faith.

Regardless of a parent’s own faith or their level of concern for their child’s current and future faith journey, parents may find common ground in their desire to see children make meaningful relationships with peers. Nearly all parents say they are at least somewhat concerned about this (83% all U.S. parents, 86% Christian parents, 80% non-Christian parents, 88% practicing Christian parents), with little difference by faith affiliation.

Churches can be a place where these meaningful relationships are formed among children—which are a factor in spiritual development too. In fact, past Barna research has explored how family, friends and the vibrant faith of one’s household are linked.

Christian parents who hope for a healthy, enduring spiritual foundation for their children need the support of a church that recognizes their concerns and addresses them in community.

Additional reading and resources:

Guiding Children

To discover the Bible, Navigate Technology & Follow Jesus

About the Research

Barna Cities data: The data shown above is based on a representative sample of 2,007 interviews with U.S. adults, ages 18 or older. The interviews were conducted online from April 23 to May 5, 2021. The margin of error is +/- 2 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence interval.

U.S. adults are U.S. adults ages 18 or older.

Practicing Christians are self-identified Christians who have attended a worship service within the past month and strongly agree their faith is very important to their life.

Non-practicing Christians are self-identified Christians who do not qualify as practicing Christians.

Photo by Jessica Rockowitz from Unsplash

© Barna Group, 2022.

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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