How is Christian faith shared from one generation to the next? What help does the local church provide? In 2019, 17 Canadian ministry organizations and denominations partnered with the EFC Centre for Research on Church and Faith (CRCF) to help answer such questions.
Parenting Faith, the 245-page report released today, presents the findings of this uniquely Canadian research that identifies what helps and hinders the transmission of faith from this generation of parents to their children.
“In our various and distinct ministry areas, we all observed that children and young people seem to be leaving the Church more than they are staying,” says Eric Provost, executive director of Awana International Canada. “We share a deep concern about that trend, along with the conviction that understanding what is happening within families can help churches and ministry organizations serve and help those families better.”
The research, conducted by the CRCF, involved interviews with Canadian evangelical parents and family ministry experts as well as surveys with 1,217 parents representing 3,041 children across Canada. The report identifies the cultural influences and parental priorities that are currently shaping how beliefs and faith-related behaviours are adopted or rejected by the next generation.
“Parenting Faith identifies both gaps and opportunities for churches, ministry organizations and parents to help us all better guide youth into a life of following Jesus and meaningful belonging and participation in the Church,” says Rick Hiemstra, lead researcher and CRCF director. “As parents ourselves, we were fascinated to hear other parents share their hearts, and in many cases, their actual techniques for nurturing a love of God within their kids. We are excited to think about how this report will equip leaders and practitioners to understand the context parents are living in now, and how they can most effectively come alongside.”
The report also reveals seismic shifts in how parents of this generation view and carry out their role as shapers of faith in their children’s lives, compared to the previous generation and their own parents. Seventy-three percent of surveyed parents believe it is essential to offer their children religious choice without any pressure, while 32% of respondents report that their own upbringing was quite different. They recall their own parents requiring unquestioning obedience to religion and not offering explanations about faith.
The survey reveals that, in contrast to previous generations, these parents do like to discuss faith with their children, and often do so casually while on the move from one extracurricular activity to another or during other transition times during an ordinary day. The research also shows other typical faith-forming activities like reading the Bible, praying or sharing personal testimonies are not being practised by children in a way that would indicate they would continue to practise them as adults
An astounding 99% of parents surveyed say their role in faith formation is to teach and model their faith.
The full list of EFC affiliate organizations that partnered in this project along with the report are available at www.TheEFC.ca/ParentingFaith.
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