For many parents, the decision of whether or not to pass their religious heritage on to their children looms large. Given the wide range of experiences so many have endured with the church, it’s no wonder the consideration of what to do raises many questions.
Depending on your background, positive church experiences may be more common than you think. Generations of healthy families count their religious practices among the most cherished traditions they have.
For others, the very idea of religion carries a host of unwanted baggage. Perhaps the judgment they endured seemed hypocritical and contrary to the teachings of the church. Maybe abuse was a part of their experience. The faith and trust they placed in leaders washed away because of a gross misuse of power.
What To Do?
No matter where you are along the spectrum, religion can be a dicey subject. Tobin Walsh is one parent who’s mulled over these issues time and time again. In a recent post, he details the internal struggle of parenting children with the ongoing uncertainty of the role faith should play in their family’s life. Says Walsh,
My view of attending church was formed by a Catholic upbringing which, for me, connected going to church with routine. Attending mass was not about being devout as much as standing up and sitting down for an hour per week on cue.
As Walsh continues, he shares how his personal experience should not impact the opportunity his children have to explore church for themselves. He’s determined that, for him, church is not a necessary component of a faith-filled life. This, however, should not interfere with his children’s personal faith exploration. As he winds down, Walsh concludes:
Parenting is about constantly re-accessing my direction and allowing for deviations from the path I might envision for my kids.
These kinds of questions are neither new, nor relegated to a small minority. According to a Pew Research study released in late 2015, the majority of Americans still identify as Christian; however, what, if any, involvement they have with a local church varies widely.
Getting Into It
Interestingly, Mormons (better than two-thirds) report the highest level of regular involvement in their congregations. Evangelicals, on the other hand, reflect a less than 50% rate of ongoing participation.
Making sense of these numbers can be tricky. Determining what constitutes a follower in a particular faith means different things to different people. For some, being born into a family of a certain faith is enough. While others accept a more strictly defined role which includes weekly attendance and participation.
By and large, parents maintain the most influential relationships that children have – good and bad. The type of upbringing they experience will shape their worldview in profound ways. With such important stakes, giving thought to your family’s best interests is a worthy investment of your time.