The Impact on Kids of Dad’s Faith and Church Attendance

Dream Lake landscape  Rocky Mountain National Park

According to LifeWay Research Group, Fathers Day is the holiday with the single lowest average church attendance – statistically lower than Labor Day, Memorial Day and even the Fourth of July.

This is interesting, especially when you consider that Mothers Day tends to be the day with the third highest church service attendance, after Easter and Christmas.

So, Mothers Day is one of the most highly attended Sundays of the year, and Fathers Day is one of the lowest. What does this tell us?

Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research, gives this assessment:

“Clearly, mothers want to be present for the affirmation that is typically offered in most churches, but families also are present knowing their attendance will honor their mother.

The attendance difference between Mothers Day and Fathers Day is telling,” said McConnell. “Either churches are less effective in affirming fathers, or families believe Christian fathers don’t value their participation in worship services.”

Surely there are other factors involved, including travel and the time of year. On Mothers Day school is still in session, on Fathers Day it isn’t – so families travel to visit relatives, or go on vacation.

But all these factors and statistics aside, here’s what’s really striking: when you see the research on the impact of a dad’s faith and practice on their families.

According to data collected by Promise Keepers and Baptist Press, if a father does not go to church, even if his wife does, only 1 child in 50 will become a regular worshiper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of what the mother does, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will attend church as adults. If a father attends church irregularly, between half and two-thirds of their kids will attend church with some regularity as adults.

If a mother does not go to church, but a father does, a minimum of two-thirds of their children will end up attending church. In contrast, if a father does not go to church, but the mother does, on average two-thirds of their children will not attend church. 

Another study, focused on Sunday School, found similar results on the impact of fathers:

  • When both parents attend Bible study in addition to the Sunday service, 72% of their children attend Sunday school when grown.
  • When only the father attends Sunday school, 55% of the children attend when grown.
  • When only the mother attends Sunday school, 15% of the children attend when grown.
  • When neither parent attends Sunday school, only 6% of the children attend when grown.

Another survey found that if a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5% probability everyone else in the household will follow. If the mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17% probability everyone else in the household will follow. However, when the father is first, there is a 93% probability everyone else in the household will follow. 

Here’s the point of all these statistics: Dad’s impact on the kids’ faith and practice is HUGE.

Dads, let me encourage you with these words which Moses spoke by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to the dads of the new generation in Deuteronomy:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

40 thoughts on “The Impact on Kids of Dad’s Faith and Church Attendance

  1. We share this info a lot. Could you supply the references to the research for us to help us convince the skeptical. thanks!

    1. Hi Kim, I wrote this article a few years ago – and at the time I did research it based on data provided by Promise Keepers and Baptist Press. However, I regret that I did not mark down those references. I’m sure they could be dug up via search on the internet, if you are interested in pursuing that. Maybe I will do that too, because you are not the first to ask for the references. If you do end up finding that data, please send me the links so I can include the references here. Thanks!

      1. Hi Craig, yes, that is one of the articles I used as a reference! Thanks for helping me track it down.
        The other sources were from Promise Keepers, Focus on the Family, LifeWay Christian Research and a book called “Becoming Spiritual Soulmates With Your Child.” (ISBN 978-0-8054-6269-2)

      2. It seems many places quote it, but none of them links back to an actual study in which this was counted:

        Do I believe fathers influence the faith of children? Yes! Do I believe mothers influence the faith of children? Yes! Do I believe children influence the faith of parents? Yes, and I even understand why this will happen less often. But – here is the clincher – children are more likely than adults to come to the Lord if presented with the gospel. So, teaching children the gospel is more likely to get at least one convert, while teaching it to parents may be more likely to either get zero or several.

      3. Hi Nick, is it possible to share the excerpt from “Becoming Spiritual Soulmates With Your Child” where this statistic is mentioned? The Baptist Press article refers to “Promise Keepers at Work”, but this book did not cite their source. It would be very helpful to know if there is a way to access the original the research and understand method behind it. Thanks!

      4. Hi Jessica, I’ve posted my sources in previous comments. I’m not sure if the exact excerpt with the sources is in there. I agree it would be helpful to know the original research and the method behind it! If you find that info, please post it here. Thanks!

      5. You mentioned “Becoming Spiritual Soulmates With Your Child” as one of your sources, but I cannot find a copy of the book in my country. If you have a copy, could you check if they cite the research material/method?

  2. I just read your article and the impact fathers have on their childrens church attendance. I had read that info before and googled it wanting to go back over numbers. I was wondering though, do you have any info on children whose fathers attend but kids quit? Is there any research on why? Thanks for help on this!

  3. Hey!
    Your article is amazing. My personal opinion is children always follow their fathers and there is a great impact of all activities you have done in front of your child your child will follow them. Another thing is that the church as the body of Christ made up of believers in Jesus Christ, the communion of the saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. We should polish our faith and make personal relationships with God.

  4. David Morrow in his book, “Why Men Hate Going to Church” shares the same stats and research. It’s a great book. All church leaders should read it in my opinion. Thanks for the article.

  5. Reblogged this on Acrosss the Stars and commented:
    This is one of the more inconvenient truths about the Christian faith. Especially with our current “leadership”.

    What is to be done?

    The grim, but rather enlighening conclusion: Fathers who loathe the current Church leadership will have to remain in the church, and either break the studiously incompetent church bureaucracy, or set up a network of home churches, or go independent.

    What we cannot do – if we want the Christian church to endure – is just up and leave the church.

  6. What is the benefit of attending church? A person is demanded to surrender personal faith in Jesus and personal relationship with Jesus Christ to become a Borg in a socialist swamp. It’s great for becoming robotized, lobotomized, Romanized, and institutionalized.

    But its pointless for knowing Jesus Christ personally.

    Don’t go. Jesus isn’t welcome there. Conformity is King. Not Jesus.

    1. Hi Laura, any church that demands you “to surrender a personal faith in Jesus and personal relationship with Jesus Christ” is certainly not acting on behalf of Christ.

      I would encourage you to reconsider your view of church (the local, organized gathering of believers) since the Bible upholds it as being very important and central to Christ’s continual work, both broadly and in the life of the believer.

      Jesus loves the church, died for the church, is sanctifying the church, and is coming back for the church (Eph 5:P25-29). Jesus has set elders over the church (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:5) to care, protect, and shepherd His people. This will come through teaching, preaching, reproving, rebuking, exhorting (2 Tim 2:2), overseeing (Acts 20:28), equipping for ministry (Eph 4:11-12) etc. It is within the local church where each person uses their spiritual gift for the good of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12), making EVERY person highly valued and important. In Acts the gospel was spread through the planting of churches. These were and are central to Christ’s missional strategy. It is for these reasons the writer to the Hebrews told the people not to forsake meeting together, but meet regularly and stir one another up to love and good works (Heb 10:23-25). Therefore, not to do so shows either ignorance, pride (believing I am self-sufficient and in need of no one else) or disobedience.
      If Christ has a high view of the church so should we. If He has placed the church as the primary place to carry out His great commission (Matt 28L18-20) then we ought to not reject the church, but love her, embrace her, and patiently, humbly, and eagerly serve her.
      I hope that is helpful

      1. Craig and Laura: I liked Laura’s comment so much that I recorded a podcast episode to discuss it! It will be released tomorrow and I will post a link here in the comments. (Or – you could subscribe to the Theology for the People podcast and have it delivered to you!)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s