Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Influence of Fathers

When most men sign up to be fathers, few of them stop to read the “small print”.  Well, for those who are fathers, or plan to be at some point in your life, I have some small print for you today.
In 1994, the Swiss carried out an extensive survey in order to determine whether a person’s religious tendencies carried through to the next generation and, if so, why/ why not.  The information from this study went to the Federal Statistical Office in Neuchâtel, and was then published in Volume 2 of Population Studies No. 31. 
The results of this study shows there is one critical factor that plays into the religious practices of the next generation.  The father.  That’s right; it is the religious practice of the father of the family that, above all, determines the future attendance of, or absence of, the children that make up the next generation.
So, here are the facts.
To no one’s great shock, where neither parent attends church nor practices religion of any kind, only 4% of children will become regular attendees and 15% irregulars. Which means, bottom line, 80% will be lost to the faith.
Now, change the scenario a bit.  If the father is non-practicing, but a mother regularly attends church, only 2% of children will become regular worshippers, and 37% will attend irregularly.  Bottom line, over 60% of their children will be lost completely to the church.
Once again, let’s shake things up.  If the father irregularly attends church, and mother is regular, the 2% increases to 3% of the children subsequently becoming regulars themselves, while a further 59% will become irregulars. 38% will be lost.
Depressing statistics, is it not?
Now, let’s look at some different statistics.   
If both father and mother attend regularly, 33% of their children will end up as regular churchgoers, and 41 percent will end up attending irregularly. Only ¼th of their children will end up not practicing at all.
Perhaps the most shocking statistic, however, is the last one I will share with you.  If the Father alone is regular, and the mother irregular/non-practicing, extraordinarily, the percentage of children becoming regular goes up from 33% to 38 % with the irregular mother and to 44% with the non-practicing.
Now, before all the mothers reading this despair, let me comfort them with the knowledge that the likeliest reason why the numbers of retained children go up for a father who alone is a practicing believer is because those fathers are far more likely to be the real deal.  Statistics (I like looking at statistical numbers) show that it is easier for women to do something contrary to her husband's desires and acceptance, than it is for a man to do something contrary to his wife's desires and acceptance (Genesis could have told us that, right?).  So those Fathers who follow Christ apart from their wife  are more likely to be dedicated to involving Christ in not only their life, but also that of their child.  
In short, fathers play a drastic role in the salvation of their children.  The results are shocking, but they shouldn’t be.  They simply prove the biology of the created order.
See, a mother’s role will always remain primary in terms of intimacy, care, and nurture.  No father can replace that relationship. But, it is equally true that when a child begins to move into that period of separation from home and engages with the world, he/she looks increasingly to the father for their role model. Where the father is indifferent, inadequate, or just plain absent, children begin to see that church is a “women and children” thing, so they will respond accordingly—by not going to church, or by going much less.

Curiously, both adult women as well as men will conclude subconsciously that Dad’s absence indicates that going to church is not really a “grown-up” activity. The conclusion is that Mom takes the kids to church, because kids should be in church (because they should have a solid childhood upbringing), but it holds no use for adults.
You might be sitting there thinking, okay, but those findings are for Switzerland, not me (I have a lot of American, Canadian, and British readers), but if we are honest with ourselves, I’m sure we would admit that we wouldn’t get very different findings from similar surveys where we live.  In fact, they may be worse.  But regardless, these statistics are of huge import to our evangelization and its underlying theology.
Sociologically and demographically the current trends are severely against the church’s mission with fatherhood in decline, and we aren’t helping the situation in the church.  Think about it.  Our churches are accepting fatherlessness as a norm and are saying it is okay.  In an effort to minister to a fatherless society, many churches are now seeking out female pastors who can, it is said, more easily relate to the single mothers and make them feel more empowered. 
But the reality is, these types of thought processes are only playing into the issues we already see in our culture.  Our churches are losing men at an alarming rate and, if the Swiss figures are correct, are therefore losing children just as fast. The reality is, if we feminize the church, we will not keep the men, and you cannot keep the children if you do not keep the men.
And when the Fathers leave the church, we see the impact it has on the culture, too.  With the mass exodus of men from the church, we have also seen our culture spiral into a fatherless society.  Men are rejecting traditional fatherhood and the disintegration of the family has spawned more dysfunction and violence in our culture. 
But this blog post isn’t about the church, really.  It is about men.  It is about the influence fathers have on their children, which is undeniable.  Not only do the statistics show us this, but so does real life.  Think of the best father you know, be it your own or someone else’s, and then look at his children.  My guess they are stable, happy, healthy kids.
Fathers have a lasting effect on not only their children and their wives (because the reality is a stable, good man often has a stable, good woman beside him and thus women do play a drastic role in these figures, albeit inadvertently), but the generations to come.  They leave behind a legacy that does not die with them.  Question is, is it a legacy we really want to pass on? 
No father creates no family, and no family often creates no faith.  Men are key, which means they should be the church’s evangelic target.  Not to the exclusion of women and children, mind you, but somewhere along the lines the church started focusing more and more on the teens and young people, and less and less on the fathers and families as a whole.
So men, think about the impact you have.  You are one of the most influential people that will ever be in the life of your child (future or present).  And women, remember the man you choose to marry will be the biggest influence over your children; positive or negative.

Post Script:  And yes, that is a picture of me and my Daddy, for those of you who were wondering.  Even back then you could tell I was Daddy's little girl. 


  1. Lots of good thoughts, Kaitlyn. I agree. :)

    1. Thanks, Jonathan. :) Most of them aren't mine. They came from a survey. I just expostulated off of them.

  2. Good stuff to mull over. Thanks. :)

    PS. I wondered if that was you and him. :D

    1. Yeah, I knew those of you who know me personally would wonder, so I figured I would just tell you. ;)

  3. Great thoughts, thank you for posting this. :)

    I'm with Mark-I guessed it was you and him. *grins*

    *slowly trying to catch up with your awesome blog* ;)

    1. Aww, I'm so glad you liked it Jeremiah!

      You need to catch up so you can read the fairytales and imagination one you wanted to read. ;)


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