Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. Proverbs 4:1-2
No, it’s not June, though this is the warmest February I have ever experienced apart from my time in Florida and I am most thankful for it.
In the Lutheran Witness article, Dads Being Dads by Joe Olson (June 2016 – https://blogs.lcms.org/2016/dads-being-dads), the author cited statistics regarding the probability of worshipping trends of children as they mature in comparison to the worship trends of the parents. I was motivated to seek the original research publication and was rewarded with a complete statistical picture that you can see below.
In summary, the frequency of church attendance of the father has an overwhelming impact of the future behavior of the children.
Based on the study “The Demographic characteristics of the Linguist and Religious Groups in Switzerland” in The Demographic Characteristics of National Minorities in Certain European States by Werner Huag and Phillipe Warner. Council of European Directorate General III, Social Coheasion, Strasburg, 2000)
When both parents regularly attend church, almost 75% of the children will remain in church. If neither parent practices, about 80% of the children will be lost. This outcome is expected.
However, when differentiating between the impact of the father and mother upon the worship life of the family, it is hands down a father’s world, pun intended. When a father is regularly attending and the mother is non-practicing, about 33% of the children are lost compared to 61% lost when the mother is faithful and the father is non-practicing. Even with the mother’s best efforts, only one child in 50 will regularly attend church as an adult if the father in the home is spiritually missing in action.
Though one may doubt the study of by the Swiss, there are, however, additional studies regarding American culture and the outcome is the same. For example, when both parents attend Sunday school, 72% of the children attend Sunday school when grown. When only the father attends, 55% of the children continue as opposed to 15% when only the mother attends. Yet another study indicated that if the father is first to become a Christian in the household, there is a 93% probability that the household will follow compared to a 17% probability if the mother takes the lead.
To me, these statistics are sobering as to the role I have as a father with respect to my behavior towards my family’s spiritual life – it is not something to be taken lightly. Dads, your children are watching and listening to you, even though they may not necessarily appear to be doing so. What is important to you will be important to them. It is no accident that Martin Luther inscribed in the Small Catechism as the head of the household shall teach his children. There is even a movement in the Missouri Synod to have families teach confirmation to their children with periodic examinations by the pastor to ensure that education is taking place.
What these statistics scream is that a man with children has as his primary vocation the spiritual nurturing of his children – to ensure he is regularly talking to his children about God’s Word, studying God’s Word, and most importantly, worshipping as a family.
The postmodern culture assaults the idea of traditional marriage; makes fun of the role of a father by more often than not treating him like some comic buffoon mocked by his wife and children; and opposes nature by pretending anyone can be a father as long as they identify as one.
Yes, postmodernism is an absurdity and the study above is an excellent way to refute the absurdity by recognizing the impact a man has upon a household. In reality, it is not just the spiritual life but how a father relates to his daughter will have a bearing upon the type of man she marries and how she relates to her spouse. Likewise, a son learns how to treat his future wife by observing the behavior of his father towards his mother. The communication between a husband and wife is intently observed by children and they in turn model that behavior to their future spouses and families.
It is our responsibility as fathers to confront the current godless, sick culture by taking the spiritual lead. The best step is to take your family to church on a regular basis, at least three or four times a month – the definition of regular is not once a month. In God’s house, we are nourished through God’s Word and Jesus’ very body and blood. This strengthens us to meet the challenge of our most important vocation: fatherhood.
What about single-parent mothers? What influence can they have upon their children? The answer is the same as above for fathers – attend church regularly so that your family is spiritually nourished. Just as the body dies when the food supply is cut off, so too for the family that cuts itself from God’s means of grace; it eventually spiritually dies. Mothers, just like fathers, need to be spiritually strengthened to also meet the challenge of their primary vocation: motherhood.
As my dad once told me, the most important thing to him was to be eternally in God’s presence in heaven with all his family. Dads – let’s make sure it is our priority as well.
See you in church!
In His Service,
Bob Hollman – President