Juvenile delinquency, crimes by minors, and psychological issues among children are increasing exponentially. Church attendance is decreasing exponentially. Is there a connection? Studies show that children whose parents are serious about church attendance become more emotionally stable and of better character than other children. Too many parents ensure their children are safe, healthy, educated, and socially skilled, but neglect their spiritual development.
Numerous studies by institutions such as Duke University, Indiana University, University of Michigan, Center for Disease Control, Barna Research Group, Gallup, Pew, and the National Institute for Healthcare correlate child development and church involvement. These studies show that, despite parental guidance, D.A.R.E. programs, after-school programs, athletic programs, etc., many children veer away from quality lifestyles. The research, however, confirms that children who actively engage in a faith community on a regular basis have a SIGNIFICANTLY reduced likelihood of life problems and risky behaviors. The studies also show that children who regularly attended church substantially improved their odds of a happier, healthier, and longer life.
America’s minor children are committing violent crimes and exhibiting anti-social behavior at record rates compared to a few decades ago. A study by The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine concluded that juvenile crime has increased more than 30% over the last 50 years. Research by the Barna Group and the American National Election Studies shows church attendance down by about the same percentage during the same period. Those statistics combined with the correlation between child development and church attendance prove a positive link between desired child behavior and consistent involvement in church. The sooner children are engaged in church, the better. Empirical evidence indicates that, if children are not regularly active in church by age 12, the odds of becoming active drops dramatically. Parents who truly want the best for their children need to get them involved in church now and regularly. Of course, church-going families can have troubled children, and non-church-going families can have children of model behavior. But, statistically, families not involved in church are at far greater risk of raising children with behavior problems.
The church avoidance trends are most prevalent among millennials. A recent Barna study revealed that 65% of America’s senior adults attend church regularly, while only 39% of millennials do so. Of course, it’s the millennials who are raising most of the current generation of children. Many who are not attending church say they are praying, reading the Bible, and providing religious training to their children at home. However, God’s Word, the Bible, gives strong reasoning for His work being accomplished through the church including corporate worship, ministry sharing, group prayer, in-depth Bible study, and accountability. Personal spiritual development at home is necessary, but it is meant to complement, no replace, the church.
Parents who do not attend church as a family are denying their children a major advantage in character growth and are placing their children’s future and even eternal destiny at risk. I have heard some parents say they want to allow their children to ultimately make up their own minds about their religious beliefs and don’t want the church to influence them. That tells me the parents have no confidence in their own beliefs. Otherwise, such a statement would be like watching their children walk off a cliff with no attempt to stop them.
Both parents should be in agreement about involving their children in church. However, if only one considers it essential, that parent should take the lead in the spiritual welfare of the children. The Bible clearly teaches that the husband and father should be the spiritual leader of the family. In religious and spiritual matters of the family, the children usually follow the father’s lead. A recent study showed that, if the mother attended church, but the father didn’t, only 2% of the children would attend consistently. However, if the father attended and the mother didn’t, 44 % of the children would attend consistently. Today’s America desperately needs husbands and fathers who will lead their families’ spiritual journey.
One final important point. Church attendance is not required to be in a covenant relationship with God just like living together is not required for marriage. But, as a married couple receives the benefits of marriage by living together, so those who have committed themselves to Christ receive benefits of that commitment through the church. Church attendance is a natural expression and evidence of a family’s devotion to God.
If you are concerned about the future of America, and you don’t have your family in church, I humbly encourage you to be a part of the solution by attending church this Sunday…and every Sunday possible thereafter.