The Importance of Parental Influence in Passing Down Faith at Home

When it comes to skills like sports and instruments, we understand well that children need practice, lessons, and encouragement. But when it comes to faith, we expect them to just pick it up, out of the air, without intentional planning. It doesn’t work that way. Faith, like everything else, is learned through practice, repetition, and deliberate guidance. Parents are the single greatest influence in the faith development of their children.

In their book Handing Down the Faith, Christian Smith and Amy Adamczyk underscore the importance of parental influence in faith development among children, youth, and young adults. Smith and Adamczyk underscore three important factors that lead to success in ensuring faith is learned at home.

  1. Warm, Affirming Relationships: A warm, supportive relationship between parents and children is essential. If the relationship is emotionally distant or overly critical, efforts to pass on faith may backfire.
  2. Quality Conversations: How families talk about religion matters more than the content of what is said. Conversations should be open, child-centered, and related to the children’s lives. Listening more than speaking and encouraging questions are key.
  3. Consistency and Authenticity: Children are quick to notice inconsistencies. Seeing parents live their faith genuinely and consistently teaches that faith is not just for Sundays but a way of life.

Knowing that parents play a vital role in passing down faith at home, pastors and faith formation leaders should direct their attention to empowering parents in their roles. Here are a few ways to do this:

  1. Educate and Equip: Pastors can offer workshops or resources that equip parents with tools and ideas for incorporating faith at home. Emphasizing the parents’ role as primary faith leaders is crucial. Additionally, pastors should focus on teaching parents simple practices to do in the home. (See Faithful Families: Creating Sacred Moments at Home for tons of simple ideas!)
  2. Intergenerational Programming: When churches bring all ages together for faith formation and conversation it sends the message to all that faith development happens reciprocally with community members of all ages. GenOn Ministries does this so well!
  3. Create a Supportive Community: It’s hard to find like-minded parents who are interested in raising children in the faith. Provide ways for parents to meet together and share the joys and challenges of raising children in faith.
  4. Provide Resources: Ensuring families have access to books, apps, and other materials that help them practice their faith at home is important. Create a lending library or resource section on your websites. One of the best ones I’ve seen recently is from First Congregational Church of Western Springs

Many blessings to you as you help the families in your care develop faith practices to last a lifetime! To learn more about faith formation at home, feel free to stay connected at or

Rev. Traci Smith