If you’re a Christian parent who is trying to pass your faith on to your children, a new study should boost your confidence.

A majority of practicing Christians (who said their faith is important and that they attended a worship service within the last month before the survey) told the Barna research group that they became Christians before they were adults, with many saying they came to Christ before they were 12 years old.

This jibes with a famous proverb (22:6), which states: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

The study, Households of Faith, produced in partnership with Lutheran Hour Ministries, found that childhood experiences had lasting value.[1] “Usually, respondents say Christianity was ‘passed down’ to them by a particular relative (59%), though sometimes another family member was exploring faith around the same time as the respondent (11%),” the authors say.

Thanks, Mom

Mothers are most often the key figures in a child’s spiritual development, along with fathers and grandparents.  Just over two-thirds of respondents (68%) “say they were most influenced by the Christian model of their mothers, compared to less than half (46%) who point to their fathers,” the authors state. “More than a third (37%) looks back further into their lineage, to the spiritual influence of their grandparents, usually a grandmother.”

Other studies show that faith-based households have better outcomes on many social indicators, such as alleviating depression and achieving marital happiness. Major family decisions often revolve around  income, spending and investing.   Timothy Plan encourages households of faith by implementing screens to ensure Biblically Responsible Investing.

People not raised in Christian households can also take heart, the Barna researchers say. Those who came to faith later in life report stronger adherence to orthodox Christian doctrines.

In fact, of those “who say their faith exists despite negative Christian examples in their family of origin,” 94% agree strongly or somewhat strongly in the inerrancy of Scripture.  Of those who had no Christian influence on their upbringing at all, positive or negative, 82 percent believe in salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. These percentages are significantly higher than those of people raised in Christian households.

The researchers explain this finding by the possibility that, “reacting against a negative or inconsistent model of faith prompts one to investigate and cling to these tenets.”

The antidote to an early bad experience may well be a supportive faith network later in adult life.

“They have, in other words, found refuge and stability—perhaps for the first time—in a faith and community that they chose and cultivated on their own,” the authors say. “To them, Christianity isn’t an heirloom; it’s an anchor.”

[1] From Barna: Surveys conducted from April 5–11, 2018. In total, 2,347 interviews were conducted, including 448 with teens between the ages of 13–17. In order to qualify, respondents had to identify as Christian, agree strongly that their faith is very important in their life today and report attending a church service at least once in the past month. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 1.8 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Individuals living by themselves are excluded from this study. This sample is not designed to be representative of all household types in the U.S. As the goal of this study is to observe interactions among practicing Christians who live together and how faith is experienced and transmitted among them, households of a single person did not qualify for participation.