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It's the parenting, stupid - Barna Survey Report

It's the parenting, stupid

By David N. Bass
March 5, 2005
2005 WorldNetDaily.com

A new Barna survey is shedding some light on why some Christian children are losing their faith in modern-day America - it's the parenting, stupid.

Conducted by the California-based research organization in November, the poll asked over 1,000 American adults (comprised of 707 parents, including 366 self-identified born-again Christians) various questions relating to parenting and how best to raise the next generation. Tragically, the survey highlighted one disturbing fact: When it comes to parenting, there is little difference between Christians and unbelievers.

George Barna, who spearheaded the research project, didn't mince words in his rundown of the poll's results: "You might expect that parents who are born-again Christians would take a different approach to raising their children than did parents who have not committed their life to Christ - but that was rarely the case."

Barna's findings paint a bleak picture. Only one out of every five parents identified instilling a set of religious beliefs as an important part of raising children. Almost double the percentage of parents ranked a good education as a more desired goal for their children than having a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. When asked what makes a parent successful, only 4 percent identified prayer as an integral part of parenting and a scant 1 percent pointed to good character.

Even exclusively among Christians, the numbers were startling. "Only three out of 10 born-again parents included the salvation of their child in the list of critical parental emphases," Barna said.

Should that fact surprise us, seeing how enmeshed the Christian family has become with secularized culture? Examine most Christian households and you will find little difference between them and families composed of unbelievers. Fathers and mothers are still absent from the home from 7 in the morning to 6 in the evening; children are still plopped in day-care facilities until they are old enough to be shipped off to public school; teenagers are still expected to learn more from their peers than their parents; and the media are still greater implanters of values than the Bible.

No wonder the voice of the Christian church in America has lost its fervor.

Scripture continually warns believers to avoid conformity to secular ways. In Romans 12:2, the Apostle Paul encouraged the brethren to resist the pattern of the world and allow their minds to be renewed by the power of God. In 1 Peter 2:9, followers of Jesus Christ are called "sojourners and pilgrims" in the world and are encouraged to "abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation."

The American family is a fractured institution. The godless ideology espoused by post-modernists has served to shackle mankind to the evil of this world. Many are searching for answers beyond the emptiness humanism and atheism grant. In such an atmosphere, Christians have the unparalleled opportunity to display the transforming power that a relationship with God can have on the family. But it takes guts and firm commitment to raise children differently from the rest of the world. Although the blame for a child's unbelief cannot be laid at the foot of every parent, fathers and mothers do possess the greatest human influence in shaping their child's worldview.

Benjamin Franklin defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Today, Christian parents are exposing their children to the same influences as the rest of society - the same distorted public education system, the same lurid popular culture, the same false morality, the same humanistic philosophies - and yet they are expecting different results. Why should we be surprised when Christian youth recklessly abandon their faith in high school and college? Parents have immersed them more in the values of popular culture than in the values of Christianity.

After all, what do parents gain if they win a thousand souls to Christ but neglect to commit the time and energy necessary to evangelize their own children?

Bribing children into coming to church one Sunday out of each month is not enough. Depending on the church to take the place of parental spiritual teaching is not enough. Expecting a public school to teach your children anything other than relativistic humanism is not enough. Sticking them in a church youth group or shipping them off to a Christian private school is not enough. Even regulating their media intake is not enough. Why? Because God does not promise salvation or change through grudging obedience but through a meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. That's the greatest gift parents can give to their child.

In our post-modern age of fractured families and disintegrating familial relationships, it's not just the best hope for real change - it's the only hope.

David N. Bass is a 19-year-old Christian homeschool graduate who has written for World Newspaper Publishing and is a regular columnist at AmericanDaily.com, IntellectualConservative.com and RenewAmerica.us. While attending college, he interns at a pro-family public-policy organization. Bass currently is working on his first novel.

The following consists of excerpts from studies made by Geo. Barna. His web site is www.barna.org I think you will be as surprised as I was by many of these findings. Dr. Robert Dreyfus

The Importance Of Reaching People When They're Young

George Barna, whose company has been conducting research for more than twenty years, commented, "Recent studies we have conducted show that the beliefs a person holds at age 13 vary little during their adult years. The most effective way to influence such beliefs is by teaching people when they are young and still in a spiritually formative stage." "Adults essentially carry out the beliefs they embraced when they were young, The reason why Christians are so similar in their attitudes, values and lifestyles to non-Christians is that they were not sufficiently challenged to think and behave differently - radically differently, based on core spiritual perspectives - when they were children. A person's lifelong behaviors and views are generally developed when they are young - particularly before they reach the teenage years". As evidence of this, Barna provided research that showed four critical outcomes.

1. "A person's moral foundations are generally in place by the time they reach age nine. While those foundations are refined and the application of those foundations may shift to some extent as the individual ages, their fundamental perspectives on truth, integrity, meaning, justice, morality, and ethics are formed quite early in life. After their first decade, most people simply refine their views as they age without a wholesale change in those leanings."

2. "A majority of Americans make a lasting determination about the personal significance of Christ's death and resurrection by age 12."

3. "In most cases people's spiritual beliefs are irrevocably formed when they are pre-teens."

4. "In essence, what you believe by the time you are 13 is what you will die believing. Of course, there are many individuals who go through life-changing experiences in which their beliefs are altered, or instances in which a concentrated body of religious teaching changes one or more core beliefs. However, most people's minds are made up and they believe they know what they need to know spiritually by age 13."

Citing research showing that a large proportion of church-going people dropout of church between the ages of 18 and 24. The percentage of teens who are not only born again but also believe in the accuracy of the Bible, personal responsibility to evangelize, believe in salvation by grace alone, and possess orthodox biblical views on God, Jesus and Satan - have declined from 10% in 1995 to just 4% today. This demise is attributable to growing numbers of teenagers who accept moral relativism and pluralistic theology as their faith foundation.

Public schools use values clarification and situational ethics beginning at a very young age to indoctrinate children.

END

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