How do parents help their children follow Jesus?

Hi friends,

Before you read this, take a second and write down what you think is the most important factor for parents to help their children follow Jesus.

If you pause to do that, it will help you appreciate the following research.

So what’s the answer?

According to this article,

Vern Bengtson started the Longitudinal Study of Generations, a multidisciplinary investigation of families, aging and social change and has followed families since 1970.

He is coauthor of Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations and How Families Still Matter: A Longitudinal Study of Youth in Two Generations.

That piqued my interest. The guy has academically studied how religion is passed down for decades!

So, what did he find was the #1 factor? They state:

Associate editor Amy Frykholm interviews Bengtson in the Dec. 25, 2013, issue of Christian Century.

Bengtson states up front that “the highest generational transmission [of religion from generation to generation] occurs in families with a high degree of warmth—particularly if the father is perceived as warm and close.”

In other words, being role models, taking the kids to church, being involved in church and having devotional activities at home are all good, but what really counts is what Bengtson calls “intergenerational solidarity or family cohesion.”

This is not what I had expected!

I would have guessed going to church regularly, discussing apologetics, or doing family devotionals might be the #1 factor. What about you??

But it turns out that being a warm, caring, engaged father, in the context of a loving, secure home, is what best helps children to trust in God.

This isn’t to devalue the role of moms, friends, etc. In my own life, my mom’s example was very important.

What do you think about this research?

How does it affect your priorities?


Personally, I had thought that living out the Faith is the best way to bring your children to Christ. Some of my friends were raised Catholic but would only go to church on holidays, and didn’t really care about their faith. To quote one of them “I was raised catholic but I just thought ‘Eh this book’s boring’” If their parents aren’t really into this Bible thing why should they be?

I think that people need to be encouraged to look into their own faith. At the private school I used to go, it seemed like nobody was actually in charge of their faith, it was more like they just did what they were told, and as we went into high school, it was like they lost their faith because they didn’t really have a foundation and were just influenced by whatever they were told. I saw a study once about how my generation doesn’t like to make choices, we just want someone else to tell us what to do, which is really bad for our future. I’ve seen it in myself, though I wish I didn’t, and it takes a lot of rereading and studying the Bible to keep my values in Jesus and not in the World. I believe that my mom had a large part in my faith because all throughout my life, she exemplified thinking for herself about her faith and looking to the Bible and encouraged me to search for the answers I want to find.


Yes, that seems to be an essential point.

I assumed that the research was looking at the question - given that parents are Christians and want to pass on their faith, what is most effective?

But perhaps not, I haven’t read it directly.

In any case, we ought to value integrity, whether or not it is effective. Even if living in obedience to Jesus was not good for passing faith to the next generation, we should do it!

I really appreciate your examples @maylana.


I thought as @maylana did that its about living out our faith or having family devotionals.

Its good to hear your story Maylana - how your mom’s faith inspired your faith and continues to help you make choices that you have seen others your generation struggle with.

I dont understand why, but many studies show that in general, father’s involvement in a child’s life helps with social, emotional and even academic performance in children. The children end up becoming more confident about themselves and can better handle stresses. I wonder if this has something to do with the results of the study on the importance of the father in passing on faith to future generations.


Really interesting and actually not surprising. I have long been aware of the father’s importance on the mental and emotional well-being of children. It is logical that he will impact their spiritual well-being. I see how both father and mother are essential parts of God’s design for raising children. I am fully aware that whilst I’m a great mum, I’m a terrible father :joy:. I wonder how this discussion can offer hope to those families with largely or wholly absent fathers? For the single mum, these could be quite discouraging findings. Does anyone have suggestions on how to pass faith to children where the dad is unable to fulfill that role?


One thing my Mom did was help arrange for me to be in situations where older Christian men could form relationships with me.

For instance, a teacher at my high school agreed to lead a Bible study for me and my friends if I could find a place to host it. My mom agreed to host it every week and provide dinner for us.

I’m not sure of the details, but through the church’s youth ministry, I got involved in a Bible study led by an older man (he was younger at the time!). He taught us to memorize Bible verses and how to study the Bible.

Through Boy Scouts, the troop leaders were Christian men, and so I was “mentored” by them as we did hikes, camping trips, weekly meetings, etc.

I was very fortunate in this regard. First, there were safe, trustworthy, godly adult men around in various communities, and second, they were willing to make time for me. I know this isn’t always the case.

I think we can also take encouragement from what Paul wrote to Timothy in 1 Timothy 1:5,

I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience as my ancestors did, when I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day. Remembering your tears, I long to see you so that I may be filled with joy. I recall your sincere faith that first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and now, I am convinced, is in you also.

Thank God for the women who have the faith of Lois and Eunice!


Thank you! God can work through mothers, fathers, adoptive parents, guardians, relatives and people in the church. God knows each circumstance and will meet needs with the people available.

Wow! This is amazing! What generous people were the Bible study teacher and your mum in making space for this to happen.

It seems that step by step, God created the means for you to know Him more. These examples will be encouraging for people to pray with confidence that God will help us raise our kids with faith. I think it also demonstrates that it’s the right thing to approach other Christians in our communities to speak into the lives of our children. We don’t have to shy away or feel that it’s all on us as primary caregiver. It’s a team effort and I think that this is something to consider in more depth.


Enjoyed reading your thoughts on this topic.

I know this topic wasn’t a topic about listening, but each participant listened well to the others contribution and built upon it. A pleasure to read.

A simple question: Alison, With your longish post, it was easy to read because of the vertical lines used when you were quoting. How can I learn to do this?

Again thanks to all.


Hi @geoff ,

Yes really easy to do. Tap on the words in a post to highlight the quote you’d like and the option to ‘quote’ will come up. Click that and it sets up a new post with the quote in place.

I’ve taken a photo below of how it will look:

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I’ll try to do this. Thanks

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