Some interesting Swiss research was published sixteen years ago (by Haug and Warner) on the importance of men in their children’s spiritual journey. The take-home is timeless and its applicability is relevant in any country. The statistics clearly showed that it is the spiritual practice of a father that significantly predicts the church attendance of his children when they become adults, demonstrating this with actions which speak louder than words.
Firstly, the researchers found that, for mums and dads attending church together regularly, only a quarter of children would later end up failing to attend at all. Two out of five would attend irregularly and one third would attend regularly. For regular-attending mums, where dads were seldom attending (if at all), only a handful of their kids would end up attending church regularly, with three in five going irregularly and the remainder not at all.
However, where fathers were regular attendees and the mothers irregular, five percent more kids would end up going regularly than if both parents were consistently attending church. This then increased by a further six percent if mum didn’t go at all! Before mothers get ideas about missing church to help their kids out, the research showed that mums who attended even occasionally would see their kids less likely to fall away from church completely.
As expected, four in five kids will just never up attending church if mum and dad don’t and single parents obviously have to attend church regularly to give their kids some realistic access to a spiritual life of their own. But if mums are non-attenders and dads just go to church occasionally, the kids are twelve times more likely to become adult churchgoers than if mum attends occasionally without dad ever going.
Clearly, here, a dad shows himself to be deadly serious about his faith when he is prepared to go to church even if mum is not. Dads set the tone for their household and the value is seen in the spirituality of the children. Regular churchgoing by dads, regardless of the habits of the mother will, according to this research, inspire up to three in four of their kids to at least attend church occasionally as adults.
Although no father can, or should, replace a child’s relationship with his mother, dads matter in the spiritual growth of children. Where a dad is simply not around for whatever reason, father figures and male role models are naturally important. But the spiritual needs of children in such a values-depleted society requires all dads to step up and show that real men get really serious with a real God. Abdication simply cannot be justified when the stakes are high and when the time available to be a parent is scarily short.
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).