A majority of churchgoing Protestant parents say their adult children are still Christians, but half of them don't practice the tenets of the faith, a survey has found.
The Nashville-based LifeWay Research has listed the top 10 spiritual activities that aid children in their Christian walk, and found that the biggest predictor of spiritual health for young adults is whether they read the Bible regularly in their youth.
"Churchgoing parents want to pass on their faith to their kids — and to see their children make that faith their own," said Scott McConnell, LifeWay's executive director. "But they don't always know how best to make that happen."
The researchers queried parents on 40 factors that could affect a child's moral and spiritual development, such as whether the family prayed, or if the parents are divorced, and asked parents to describe their adult children using eight observable factors, counting for one point each.
The factors included: Identifies as a Christian; Shares his or her faith with unbelievers; Is involved in church; Reads the Bible regularly; Serves in a church; Teaches others at church; Serves in the community; Supports local or foreign missions.
"Eighty-five percent identify as Christians, according to their parents, giving them at least 1 point on the 8-point spiritual health scale," LifeWay explained of the results.
"But only 3 percent had a score of 8, the highest possible. Two-thirds had a score of 2 or less. Half had a score of 0 or 1, meaning they either don't identify as Christians (11 percent) or they identify as Christians but have none of the other spiritual practices (39 percent)."
Parents said that the top factor that determined the spiritual health of their adult children is whether they regulary read the Bible growing up.
The study, sponsored by LifeWay Kids, used a sample of 2,000 Protestant and nondenominational Christians who have a child between the ages of 18 and 30 and who attend religious services at least once a month.
Conducted between Sept. 22 and Oct. 5, 2016, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.3 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. The parents gave observations of a total of 3,472 adult children.
What is more, the survey included a top 10 list of spiritual activities that helped Protestant children growing up, ranking them in order of most helpful:
Regularly attended Sunday school or small group; attended Vacation Bible School; attended youth group/youth worship as a teen; participated in church social activities; regularly attended children's worship/church; attended church camps; regularly served at church; participated in church mission trips or projects; regularly read the Bible; regularly spent time in prayer.
Other surveys, such as one from Gallup in May, found that Americans' trust in the Bible is declining, however.
The poll found that fewer than one in four, or 24 percent in total, said the Bible is "the actual Word of God, and is to be taken literally, word for word."
As many as 26 percent argued, however, that the Bible is "a book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man."
The most popular belief, held by 47 percent of respondents, was that the Bible is "inspired by God, not all to be taken literally."