Back in 2019, seventeen organizations in Canada joined forces to answer the question, “How can evangelical parents be better supported as they form the faith of their children in the home?” Families with children 18 or under were invited to contribute information on their practices. The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada’s Centre for Research on Church and Faith led the way in formulating and conducting the research.
Now, parents participating were devout and committed to their faith and to the wellbeing of their children. They did, however, intentionally practice their faith formation with their children differently than their parents did with them. Information about faith tended to be greater but the choice to accept, reject or question Christianity also tended to be greater. Exposure to other faith perspectives tended to be offered and while parents themselves were committed to Christ they didn’t want their children to feel pressured to believe. Role modeling and non-directive learning tended to be the avenue preferred for faith transference.
Experts agree that results of the survey show that parents are “ill-equipped and rudderless” when it comes to faith formation for their children but parents tend to believe that even if they had more time and resources they wouldn’t change a thing. In fact, the less intentional the activities around faith formation, the more parents felt confident that they were doing well in that area. Mothers tended to be far more invested and involved than fathers. Survey results showed that parental interest in children’s faith formation peaked when the child was around ten.
This finding lends credence to the rite of passage featured by the 12 Tasks book. It gives both parent and child a vital path to take spiritual formation another step at a time when many stall out. It isn’t surprising that so many teens drop out of their faith journey since parents step away and they are left to self-discovery in an area where they have little solid foundation. 64% of parents believed that their child may experience religious persecution and have strong concern about the influence of culture and government.
Parents tend to look toward other parents or to podcasts and online support to help with their concerns about children and don’t look toward the church or other Christian organizations for support. Preaching was still valued but that wasn’t usually focused on parenting helps. The church tended to be seen as a partner for Christian socialization and exposure to Christian teaching. Bible reading and memorization has become sporadic in homes and the survey suggests that religious transmission translating into specific active participation in faith-oriented activities is not happening in a sustainable way.
Sports and other activities have supplanted faith-oriented activities as primary regular commitments with parents and children. Annual events, such as summer camps or Vacation Bible School are considered as add on activities to support parents in their value transmission. Technology left parents feeling ambivalent when it came to quality Christian content. They appreciated the medium as a tool but agonized about what else came through the digital streaming as their main issue was about managing, limiting or controlling access to another screen. Time limits tended to be the resolution for this.
The survey’s recognition that parents tend to go to other parents for support opens the door for one parent to embrace 12 Tasks and then to recruit others to embark on a journey together as they navigate the early teen years. Young teens are also negotiating the transition to seeing peers as a support and to set up a group of teens and parents to go through this together is a positive trend for both adults and children. We encourage you to take the steps needed to turn the tide of a generation that is no longer sensing the importance of a faith journey that matters.
If you are interested in an app that lays out the 12 Tasks, let us know. We think this could be a vital tool to help you on your quest to build confident and life impacting teens.