According to a newly released study, born-again Christian parents are more likely to put an emphasis on seeing that their children get a good education than seeing them enter adulthood as followers of Christ.
The study, released this week by the Christian research company Barna Group, finds born-again Christians in the U.S. don’t parent much differently than the population at large.
The telephone survey of parents across America include 707 respondents, 366 of whom were born-again Christians.
Four out of every 10 parents, or 39 percent, listed getting a good education as a critical outcome for their children they were committed to facilitating.
Helping children to feel loved was the second most frequently mentioned outcome at 24 percent, with enabling them to have a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ was cited by 22 percent.
Other desirable outcomes cited by parents were fostering a sense of security, 16 percent, helping children to feel affirmed and encouraged, 14 percent, and providing a firm spiritual foundation, 13 percent. Ten percent also said it was crucial to help their children feel happy.
Establishing appropriate moral values was cited as a critical outcome by 4 percent of those surveyed.
George Barna, who led the research, broke down results of the born-again Christian parents surveyed.
“Only three out of 10 born-again parents included the salvation of their child in the list of critical parental emphases,” he stated on the company’s website. “Parents cannot force or ensure that their kids become followers of Christ. But for that emphasis to not be on the radar screen of most Christian parents is a significant reason why most Americans never embrace Jesus Christ as their savior. … The fact that most Christian parents overlook this critical responsibility is one of the biggest challenges to the Christian church.”
Another section of the survey dealt with biblical absolutes and whether or not parents teach their children that they exist. Of all parents polled, 43 percent said they teach there are some moral absolutes, while 45 percent said they teach that there are no such absolutes.
The Barna study found most parents take a laissez-faire attitude when it comes to monitoring media their kids consume.
A majority of parents, 56 percent, said they gave their youngsters general guidelines about the amount and quality of media they were allowed to access and then let the children regulate their media intake by themselves. One-third of all parents, or 36 percent, strictly limited the amount and quality of TV, music and other media the children were allowed to access.
Another survey question attempted to ascertain how parents determine whether they have been successful in raising their children. By more than a two-to-one margin, 62 percent to 28 percent, parents define success as having done the best they could, regardless of the outcomes. Less than three out of 10 parents say the fruit of their efforts is the defining factor.
The Barna study found 36 percent of those polled say having patience is a necessary attribute for parents to be effective, while 32 percent cited demonstrating love.
The next most frequently cited attributes of effective parenting were enforcing discipline and being understanding. Each of these qualities was named by 22 percent of parents.
Having a significant faith commitment and an identifiable set of religious beliefs was mentioned by just one out of every five parents as an ingredient required for parental success, the study found.
Several other qualities were named by at least one out of every 10 parents. Those included having good communication skills, 17 percent, being compassionate, 14 percent, knowing how to listen, 12 percent, and being intelligent, 11 percent.
Barna was surprised by the lack of difference between born-again Christian parents and those who were not.
“You might expect that parents who are born-again Christians would take a different approach to raising their children than did parents who have not committed their life to Christ – but that was rarely the case,” Barna said. “For instance, we found that the qualities born-again parents say an effective parent must possess, the outcomes they hope to facilitate in the lives of their children, and the media monitoring process in the household was indistinguishable from the approach taken by parents who are not born again.”
Barna said there was one distinction he noticed.
Said the researcher: “Born-again parents were twice as likely as others to teach their children that there are certain moral absolutes they should obey. However, even on that matter, less than six out of 10 born-again parents took such a position.”
Barna says the results of the new study are not unlike previous surveys he has done.
“For years we have reported research findings showing that born-again adults think and behave very much like everyone else,” he said. “It often seems that their faith makes very little difference in their life. This new study helps explain why that is: Believers do not train their children to think or act any differently. When our kids are exposed to the same influences, without much supervision, and are generally not guided to interpret their circumstances and opportunities in light of biblical principles, it’s no wonder that they grow up to be just as involved in gambling, adultery, divorce, cohabitation, excessive drinking and other unbiblical behaviors as everyone else.”