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Passing Down Your Faith

October 27, 2022
By Tammy McIlvoy

Over the course of the past few weeks, we’ve encouraged you to work together as a family to create a family mission statement. A family mission statement helps a family identify why they live as they do and how they agree to live as a family. A large part of the Logos Prep “why” can be found in Deuteronomy 6:7, “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” These verses instruct parents to teach their children the things of God. When it comes to passing faith down from one generation to the next, parents are primary. In the weeks ahead, we will be discussing strategies to help parents with the important role of imparting faith values to their children.

In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families, Stephen Covey asks the question, “Who’s going to raise my children - today’s alarmingly destructive culture or me?” Though the book was written in 1997, the question seems to become more pressing by the day. The good news is that according to a research discussed in the book Handing Down The Faith:How Parents Pass Their Religion on to the Next Generation, “The influence of parents on children while they still live at home - including their influence on their religious identities, beliefs, and practices - is paramount, lasting for years, decades, often lifetimes.”  I would add that for the Christian, that influence is eternal.

In his book Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across the Generations, Vern L. Benstson presents the Theory of Intergenerational Religious Momentum. In this theory, Benston looks at the many things that influence a child’s faith preferences. In his research, he finds connections between faith and contemporary culture, historical events, generational religious differences and religious influence of peers. Yet, he places these at the outer edge of things that have the most impact. Next, are church activities, pastors/ministers, and religious schools. These things are followed in importance by heritage and influence from grandparents. According to his research, by far, the things with the most influence on whether a child will continue in a family's faith practice is parents’ role modeling and the quality of the parent-child relationship. This research published in 2013 is supported by the findings of Handing Down the Faith, published in 2021.

“Empirical data tell us that, for intergenerational religious transmission today, the key agents are parents, not clergy or other religious professionals. The key location is the home, not religious congregations. And the key mechanisms for socialization are the formation of ordinary life practices and identities, not programs preaching, or formal rites of passage.”

In a recent study, Pew projects that by 2070, Christians will make up less than half the US population. The way to change this trajectory is for parents to press deeply into the important task of handing down their faith. For the readers among us, I recommend all of the books mentioned in this article. We look forward to spending the rest of this semester sharing a few things we’ve learned through our own studies and experiences. As always, it is a privilege to partner with you in the education of your children. We recognize that you are God’s annointed for your children and we are honored to walk beside you!

Tammy McIlvoy
Head of School
Logos Preparatory Academy