I think a common perception is that when families have young children they become much more likely to return to church if they attended or even explore it if they didn’t have that background.
A survey released Monday by The Barna Group casts serious doubt on that assumption.
Fifty percent of poll respondents said that having children had no influence in them seeking a life within a church community. Of the remaining half, only 17 percent said they reconnected with their faith and a scant 5 percent said their role as new parents led them to church for the first time.
Age of parents and children are also a factor. Parents under 35 are much more likely to explore church with children that older parents. Additionally, parents with children of preschool age are more likely to attend than parents of teens.
Parents who declared themselves evangelicals were the least likely to say children influenced their decision on going to church, indicating many were already involved in church prior to becoming mothers and fathers.
“Parenthood might help to clarify and enhance people’s pursuit of spirituality, but usually it does not fundamentally alter a parent’s spiritual trajectory,” said David Kinnaman, Barna Group president. “Getting people to transition from church involvement based upon religious inertia to activity driven by a sense of engagement is exceedingly difficult – and relatively rare. Compounding the challenge, the age of parenthood is being pushed back as more young women delay having children into their late twenties and beyond.
“If the objective is to incorporate young parents into congregational life, it is important to help shape young people’s beliefs attitudes, habits and aspirations long before they become parents.”