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Robbie Low, writing in Touchstone (June 2003), points to an interesting 1994 study in Switzerland about the connection between the churchgoing habits of fathers and mothers and the effect on their children when they are grown.

Here’s a summary:

In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife's devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife's devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.

A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!

The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father's influence, from the determination of a child's sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is out of all proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society.

A mother's role will always remain primary in terms of intimacy, care, and nurture. (The toughest man may well sport a tattoo dedicated to the love of his mother, without the slightest embarrassment or sentimentality). No father can replace that relationship. But it is equally true that when a child begins to move into that period of differentiation from home and engagement with the world "out there," he (and she) looks increasingly to the father for his role model. Where the father is indifferent, inadequate, or just plain absent, that task of differentiation and engagement is much harder. When children see that church is a "women and children" thing, they will respond accordingly--by not going to church, or going much less.

Curiously, both adult women as well as men will conclude subconsciously that Dad's absence indicates that going to church is not really a "grown-up" activity. In terms of commitment, a mother's role may be to encourage and confirm, but it is not primary to her adult offspring's decision. Mothers' choices have dramatically less effect upon children than their fathers', and without him she has little effect on the primary lifestyle choices her offspring make in their religious observances.

Her major influence is not on regular attendance at all but on keeping her irregular children from lapsing altogether. This is, needless to say, a vital work, but even then, without the input of the father (regular or irregular), the proportion of regulars to lapsed goes from 60/40 to 40/60.

You can read the whole essay here.

HT: Gene Veith

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15 thoughts on “A Father’s Role in His Children Going to Church When They Are Adults”

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Hope the statistics and probability hold up in my case!

  2. Dean Davis says:

    I read the whole thing and found it worth its weight in gold. Thankfully, salvation is by God’s sovereign grace and not by successful parenting. That said, we know that the God of the covenant has spoken loud and clear of his desire for fathers to exemplify and faithfully transmit the faith to children and children’s children. Thank you for this keeper of an article, that will put both spine and hope in God’s men.

  3. Cindy Brewer says:

    This is so true! How can non-believers fight statistics? According to scripture, all we’re asked to do is “plant the seed”.
    Thankfully and mercifully—God does the rest! PTL

  4. I have seen this to be true. In fact, a father’s involvement with the church (serving, teaching, etc) can also be directly related to his children’s dedication past the point of childhood. I am so blessed to have grown up with a godly example set for me by my dad!

  5. Blest says:


    Maybe these fathers who do NOT go to church,
    are a lot more biblical then those who do. ;-)

    Can you name one person, in the bible, who went to church?

    When you use the word “church” – Which “church” are we talking about?

    1 – “The Church of God?” Where Jesus is the head of the body,
    (The ekklesia, the called out one’s), The Church? :-)

    2 – the church of man? Where the 501 (c) 3, non-profit,
    tax $ deductible, Religious $ Corporation? Is called the church? :-(

    Seems, in the Bible, “The Church” The Ekklesia, the called out one’s,
    refers to individual people, and an assembly, and now the house of God. ;-)

    Did Jesus shed “His Blood” for – An organization? An institution?
    A building? A denomination? Or a $ Corporation?

    Should “Disciples of Christ” call a Corporation – “The Church of God?” ;-)

    Don’t know if you ever checked or not but…
    In the Bible…

    NO one ever joined “A Church,”
    NO one ever went to “A Church.”
    NO one ever “Tithed” to “A Church.”
    NO one ever brought their children to “A Church.”
    NO one ever applied for membership in “A Church.”
    NO one ever gave silver, gold, or money, to “A Church.”
    NO buildings with steeples and crosses called “A Church.”
    NO – Pastors – in Pulpits – Preaching – to People – in Pews. ;-)

    In my experience… that’s what happens in the church of man. Yes?
    In the Bible… Believers become “the Church of God.” :-)

    Seems to me, these fathers who do NOT go to church,
    are a lot more biblical then those who do…
    Because, NO one ever went to church in the Bible. ;-)

    What is popular is not always “Truth.”
    What is “Truth” is not always popular.

    I’m Blest – I’ve returned to the shepherd and bishop of my soul… Jesus

    1. Terry says:

      Blest? Take a pill and chill why don’cha, Oh most holy one who is so much more learn-ned than me. ;^/

      1. Blest says:


        Love that face. Cool. ;^/

        Kinda like a smirk. Thanks.

      2. Blest says:


        Was wondering…

        Is there anything in particular about the comment you didn’t like? ;^/ Don’t consider myself a “learned one” – Lot’s I don’t know. I just took the time to look up every verse that had the word “church” in it. And I found out that what I was taught as “Truth” in the 501 (c) 3, non-profit, tax $ deductible, Religious $ Corporation, wasn’t lining up with what is in the Bible. Caused me to check out, in the Bible, many other “Traditions of Men” that I was taught as “Truth” and found much is NOT in the Bible.

        Seems Jesus, and the Bible, warns us about – False apostles – many false prophets – false teachers – false Christ’s – false anointed one’s – “Commandments of Men” – “Doctrines of Men” – “Philosophies of Men” – “Precepts of Men” and “Traditions of Men” that nullify, make void, “the Word of God.” Mark 7:13.

        sheesh… that’s a lot of warnings. ;^/ …and there is more.

        Seems we’re responsible for what we believe. To check out what the scripture actually says and NOT to trust man. Yes, even I have been wrong and deceived. Oy Vey!!! ;-)

        When you believe the lie you start to die…

  6. Dean Davis says:

    Blest, it seems to me the material point here is: Do kids see their dads actively participating in the life of a concrete Christian community?

    As I read the NT, believers do not have the option of NOT participating in a such a body. We are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. We are eagerly to receive the ministry of the Word from the mouth of pastors, teachers, and prophets. We are to submit to those who have the rule over us. We are to enjoy the Love Feast and the Lord’s Supper together, remembering that He lived and died to make crumbs like us into one loaf. And yes, we are to grant double honor to those who teach and preach, remembering that the gospel laborer is worthy of his hire.

    So then, whether in a house church or a mega-church, it appears that when kids observe their dads living out such ecclesiastical obedience, they don’t easily forget it. Maybe it’s one of the ways dad train them up in the way they should go, so that when they are old they do not depart from it.

    In any case, may the tribe of such NT patriarchs rapidly increase!

  7. Blest says:

    Dean Davis

    Much agreement with kids seeing their Dad’s actively participating when “the body,” “the ekklesia,” “the called out one’s,” “the church,” assembles together. I guess the question becomes, in the Bible, everyone can, and is expected to, participate, when the ekklesia comes together. Why don’t we see very much of that in the 501 (c) 3, non-profit, tax deductible, Religious Corporations, when they assemble?

    Most of what I’ve seen becomes a “one man show,” a few others do contribute, choir, ushers, sunday school teachers, but most sit in the pews and become spectators.

    Don’t know if you’ve ever assembled with believers who trusted the Holy Spirit to lead a meeting?

    That’s really cool. Just brethren coming together. NO special class of christian called “Clergy.” Folks “Led” by the Spirit. Sons of God assembling together as “ONE” in Christ. It’s wonderful… Even the least of these contribute. Those we would normally consider “less honorable” on those God bestows greater honor, greater value.

    Like in 1 Cor 14:26…
    How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, **every one of you** hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

    It does take a step of faith to believe – Jesus can teach “ALL truth” to “ALL believers” and
    allow ALL to participate, ALL to teach, and ALL to share revelation.

  8. Blest says:

    Dean Davis

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be ALL taught of God.

    John 14:26
    But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost,
    whom the Father will send in my name, “He shall teach you ALL things”…

    John 16:13
    Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, “He will guide you into ALL truth”…

    1 John 2:20
    Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye *know all things.
    *know = perceive, discern, discover.

    1 John 2:26-27
    These [things] have I written unto you concerning “them that seduce you.”
    But *the anointing* which ye have received of him *abideth in you,*
    and **ye need not that any man teach you:**
    but as *the same anointing teacheth you of all things,* and is truth, and is no lie…

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to **hear His voice,**
    that **He might instruct thee**…

    Psalms 32:8
    I will *instruct thee and *teach thee
    in the way which thou shalt go: I will *guide thee with mine eye.

    Jesus is the best teacher. Yes?

    Doesnt the word “Disciple” mean – lerner, pupil?
    Then a “Disciple of Christ” is one who learns directly from Jesus – don’t need a middle man.

    I’m Blest – Because I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul… Jesus…

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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