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Fathers: Key to their Children's Faith

June 13, 2011
S. Michael Craven
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I am afraid that our culture in general has reduced the role of fatherhood (along with marriage itself) to something nonessential or unnecessary. Even many men today regard parenting as being primarily the mother's role and somehow no longer associated with masculinity or “real” manhood.

Instead, many have succumbed to modern cultural caricatures—encouraged by feminist psychology—and the primitive label of hunter-gatherer, and thus assume that this is their main contribution to the family. As a result too many men, including professing Christian men, express their role as father exclusively in terms of financial provider. The fact is children are not looking for financial provision; they are looking for love, guidance, and a role model for what it means to be a man.

During the colonial period in America men defined themselves by their level of community involvement and fatherhood. Marriage and fatherhood were seen as being among the highest aspirations in a man’s life. Today the highest aspirations of men seem to be career success and personal leisure; and against these they seek to balance marriage and family.

The lack of actively involved fathers has produced societal conditions necessary for the intervention of government. It is a sobering fact when the government is compelled to respond to the failure of such a fundamental institution as family! In 2001 the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services under President Bush launched its Fatherhood Initiative with this statement:

The President is determined to make committed, responsible fatherhood a national priority … [T]he presence of two committed, involved parents contributes directly to better school performance, reduced substance abuse, less crime and delinquency, fewer emotional and other behavioral problems, less risk of abuse or neglect, and lower risk of teen suicide. The research is clear: fathers factor significantly in the lives of their children. There is simply no substitute for the love, involvement, and commitment of a responsible father.

While the research confirms that paternal absence (whether it is physical or emotional) is a significant contributing factor in almost every category of societal ill, my concern is the spiritual consequence.

A rather obscure but large and important study conducted by the Swiss government in 1994 and published in 2000 revealed some astonishing facts with regard to the generational transmission of faith and religious values. (The full title of the study is: “The Demographic Characteristics of the Linguistic and Religious Groups in Switzerland” by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner of the Federal Statistical Office, Neuchatel. The study appears in Volume 2 of Population Studies No. 31, a book titled The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States, edited by Werner Haug and others, published by the Council of Europe Directorate General III, Social Cohesion, Strasbourg, January 2000.) Sounds like a page-turner right?

In short, the study reveals: “It is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance at or absence from church of the children” (Emphasis mine).

The study reports:

1. If both father and mother attend regularly, 33 percent of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only a quarter of their children will end up not practicing at all.

2. If the father is irregular and mother regular, only 3 percent of the children will subsequently become regulars themselves, while a further 59 percent will become irregulars. Thirty-eight percent will be lost.

3. If the father is non-practicing and mother regular, only 2 percent of children will become regular worshippers, and 37 percent will attend irregularly. Over 60 percent of their children will be lost completely to the church!

What happens if the father is regular but the mother irregular or non-practicing? Amazingly, the percentage of children becoming regular goes up from 33 percent to 38 percent with the irregular mother and up to 44 percent with the non-practicing. This suggests that loyalty to the father’s commitment grows in response to the mother’s laxity or indifference to religion.

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). One of the reasons suggested for this distinction is that children tend to take their cues about domestic life from Mom while their conceptions of the world outside come from Dad. If Dad takes faith in God seriously then the message to their children is that God should be taken seriously.

This confirms the essential role of father as spiritual leader, which I would argue is true fatherhood. Fathers are to love their wives as Christ loves the church, modeling the love of the Father in their most important earthly relationship. Fathers are to care for their children as our Father in heaven cares for us and finally, fathers play a primary role in teaching their children the truth about reality. It is the father who should instruct his children in their understanding of the world from a consciously and informed Christian worldview. It is the father who is essential for sending his children forth with a biblical view of reality and a faith in Jesus Christ that is rooted in solid understanding.

It is time for fathers to return to honorable manhood and reconsider their priorities and realign them with God’s commands, decrees, and laws, teaching these things to your children “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7 NKJV).

Happy Father’s Day!

© 2011 by S. Michael Craven

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Response from : KJQ  

June 13, 2011 10:29 AM

Good article, Michael. I'm glad you referenced the Shema. It's also important to note that it was written to men, not parents in general.

I go a bit farther and say that the decline in the church, families, and society is directly attributable to men abusing their God given authority and/or neglecting their God given duties. For example, if men had been loving their wives sacrificially, the feminist movement would likely never have had any traction.

Christian men need to throw off the lies they've been taught by the world, repent, and embrace their responsibilities to lead their wives and families, and by extension our society.

Response from : Greg Williams  

June 13, 2011 2:59 PM

Absolutely awesome and thanks! Ami and I will be in Dallas, TX next week for the Assoc. of Marriage and Family Ministries and are looking forward to some BIG Texas hospitality! Thanks again and God bless in Christ!


Response from : Marcel van den Bos  

June 14, 2011 3:19 AM

Very good read. Especially enlightening with regard to the research carried out by the Swiss government.

Once again a re-affirmation of the great God given responsibility we have been given as men to lead our family. It is a timely reminder to continue to run that course and change where we need to.


Cheers Marcel

Response from : savi  

June 15, 2011 12:01 AM

great research ! it has revived my sagging interest in attending the second service of the sunday ! (we have two services on sundays and the afternoon service has become a drag "in my opinion". But now i will make it a point even for the sake of my kids..Thanks Michael. God Bless.

Response from : Randy Dial  

June 15, 2011 12:12 AM

I want to be a part of a movement to activate men of all ages to come together as Christians willing to stand up and put God first leaning on Him,not our selves. To stand together unaffected by the trappings and confusion that is attacking men of God. Gnosticism is a tool of the Devil. Pray for the Spirit to guide and protect us.

Response from : Jim Berni  

June 15, 2011 6:21 AM

My name is Jim Berni and I host The Morning Show on The Light 95.9 in Canton,Ohio from 5:30am-10am Monday throught Friday. WNPQ is a Christian Radio Station plying Today's Christian hits. I know this short notice. I was wondering if you have time for a phone interview on Thursday (6/16/11 or Friday(6/17/11) to talk about your recent article Fathers:Key to Their Children's Faith. Please let me know. All I need is a phone number to call you. Please check our website " Looking forward hearing from you.
Jim Berni
The Light 95.9

Response from : jenna  

June 15, 2011 10:50 AM

Well, my husband does not attend church. He did make a decision for the Lord, years ago.....but very rarely attends church. My daughter aged 17 and my Son aged 14 both come to church with me every week and have both been baptised recently. I also know of a lady....who had no husband....all four of her children are going on with the Lord and they are all grown up. So, yes...a man's position in God is vitally important...but I believe God honours a mothers heart and her prayers and he will help her if her husband stubbornly refuses to have anything to do with church.


Response from : Isaac Mate  

June 15, 2011 11:41 AM

Thank you for your article. I am a father of 2 (girl under 2 years and a boy under 6 months)and I find myself spending more tie away from home...trying to earn some money for the family. I have a well paying job overseas and lately I have been thinking deeply about returning home for a less paying job so I can spend some more time with the children. It can be difficult because you want to be finacially sound and give the family a better quality of life. Your article has put the question back on my mind..thank you

Response from : Stacey Walter  

June 16, 2011 9:37 AM

I agree with you that fathers are just as important to a child's life as mothers are. However...children are not looking for financial provision??? huh? The reality is that there are millions of broken families out there, and children need for their fathers to contribute financially. This is not only the law, but is required for basic needs of life. Part of being a man is providing financial support to the family for the child's well being, whether parents are married or not. Too many men try to escape their responsibilities of helping mothers pay the mortgage, put food on the table and other essentials. Unfortunately, in divorces and single parent homes, only one parent is available to take the children to church. This in no way means that the child is not being instructed in the way of the Lord. A single mother has no other choice but to set an example of church going, praying and Bible study for her child all on her own. You shouldn't judge families like this, as there are so many homes that are headed by mothers who must carry the responsibility of child rearing alone. There's not always a father figure available to provide the support that kids need. When you make statements indicating that children will not become future church attenders and grow up to be unsaved is misguided. Children become saved because of Jesus Christ calling them to Him. Yes, kids need both parents. In a perfect world, that would be the case. But it's not reality. Perhaps write praises to fathers who do provide for their kids financially, emotionally and spiritually in Christ. And then encourage fathers who don't do this to start!

Response from : jenna  

June 16, 2011 2:32 PM

Hi thanks for the reply. No, I do not think you are against mothers and I am for Christian fathers. My dad was an amazing man of faith and all of us children follow the Lord because of his witness in word and I do realise the value of Godly fathers....Amen! I suppose I am just truly grateful to the Lord, for touching my childrens hearts and saving their souls...despite a father who is far from God at present. God honours a mothers heart and her prayers....I truly believe that, God steps in and can become our childrens HEAVENLY father, when the children of a faithful christian mother is lacking that paternal guidance. Thank you for your article. It made me thankful - the statistics are stacked up against me! Godbless.


Response from : Conrado B Roxas  

June 20, 2011 5:07 AM

Timely indeed and we need to continue spreading this message while advocating and modeling the same at least within our respective spheres of influence. God bless.-Bro Boy Roxas, Word of Faith Baptist Church, Binan,Laguna,Philippines


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