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:
- Check out recent episodes of The Barna Minute to learn more about parents’ concerns for their children’s spiritual development and long-term commitment to their faith. The Barna Minute is a weekly segment released on Barna Access Plus that offers pastors one stat, one insight and one takeaway to help them know more and lead better.
- Read these articles about spiritually vibrant households, faith heritage, mothers’ impact on their children’s faith formation and the links between fun and faith in American homes.
- Explore data from Barna's Guiding Children report to learn more about what it takes to help children discover the Bible, navigate technology and follow Jesus right now.
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.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2022