Dad Matters! … The Spiritual Influence of Fathers

dad and daughter

On the Formingfaith website, a Lutheran pastor shares his learnings, thoughts and reflections on the joys and challenges of forming faith in children, youth and families.

Here’s the start of an article on how important dads are to the spiritual life of their children@

This Sunday will be observed by many in North America as “Father’s Day” (in my home country we wait until September). My experience is that the observance of Father’s Day in churches is more subdued than that of Mother’s Day. One obvious reason is that, on any given Sunday, there are typically fewer fathers than mothers in our churches. The “spiritually absent” father is increasingly commonplace, and the impact on church life is apparent. The impact on home faith life and faith transmission is even more concerning. In many households, fathers are passive or inactive in expressing their faith to and with their children. Studies and surveys reveal that in families where both parents are people of faith, it is mothers who tend to be most active in processes of child faith formation.

Based on research, it is axiomatic to say that in most families the mother is the primary figure in children’s religiosity. … Why do mothers have such an influential role, and what mechanisms are at work? Women are more religious than men and attend worship services more often, and adults recall seeing their mothers pray more often than their fathers did. In general, mothers speak with their children more than fathers do and in conversations about religion mothers are much more involved than fathers are. In one study testing a diary method, mothers participated in all diary conversations in almost 90% of families, whereas fathers did not appear in any diary entries in almost half of the families. In a [USA] national study, 3000 mainline Protestant youth reported they had regular dialogue about faith issues with their mothers almost 2.5 times more often than with their fathers. (From Boyzatis, Dollahite & Marks “The Family as a Context for Religious and Spiritual Development in Children and Youth” – published in The Handbook of Spiritual Development in Childhood and Adolescence).

The reduced involvement of fathers in the practice of faith in the home not only places a greater burden upon mothers to embody and demonstrate the Christian faith, it also robs families of the unique contributions that fathers seem to make. Put simply, various research studies suggest that when it comes to faith transmission, fathers and mothers are not altogether interchangeable.

Read more here.

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