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Families who pray together, stay praying together?

Byline: By RIN SIMPSON Western Mail

The phrase 'like mother like child' does not hold true when it comes to religion. According to a report out today, only half of children with two religious parents will become members of the same religion, and where there is only one religious parent the transferal rate is half of that again.

However, the report did find that parents' beliefs, practices and affiliations have the biggest impact on children.

Dr David Voas of the University of Manchester, who led the study, said, 'How children are brought up has an enormous impact on whether they will identify with a religion.

'Once people become adults, their religious affiliation is less likely to be affected by influences around them.'

Even when religious allegiance appears to have been successfully passed from one generation to another, there are many differences among individuals.

Whatever the parents' beliefs, around one in 12 children opt for a denomination to which neither parent belongs.

The Church was open minded about the report's findings. SiOn Brynach, press officer to the Archbishop of Wales, said, 'Several of the key points raised by the research team would confirm some of the perceptions of the Church in Wales itself; this, despite the headline conclusion being at odds with the findings of the 2001 census which demonstrated the strength of spiritual belief in the UK, with 72% of respondents claiming to be Christians.'

Religious belief appears to be declining faster than church attendance in the UK, according to today's survey, which was carried out by the Economic and Social Research Council.

One of the key factors influencing the decline is the changing environment in which children are raised. Society has become much more secularised, reducing the likelihood of children socialising with religious people.

'There is a large and growing generation gap, a large and growing gender gap and, most importantly for the churches, a large and growing gap between liberal and conservative Christians,' said Dr Voas.

Women in their twenties are more likely to attend church than men, particularly when only one of their parents did the same.

This is broadly accepted by the Church. 'Evidence to support the research's assertion, that society is changing, is all around us, and the Christian worshipping community clearly needs to take this into account and respond to those changes,' said SiOn.

'More and more it seems that we need to take seriously the suggestion that churches grow when they go where people are, rather than waiting for them to come through the church building's front door.'

But the report goes beyond what many Christians believe to be true. 'I think I'd be loath to be quite so sceptical as this ESRC report in the context of the church community's role in articulating some aspects of the national life,' said SiOn.

'Evidence suggests there remains a vicarious aspect to peo- ple's relationship with the Church and that they do turn to it at times of national crisis or mourning.

'Christ's Gospel is always new, always challenging and the evidence of this report rather supports the view that the Church sometimes fails to communicate this eternally new and exciting aspect of Christianity effectively.': How one family have succeeded:Nicola Riley, 47, and her husband Chris have raised five sons - aged between 15 and 25 - in the Church. Here she explains howa 'IS it difficult raising Christian kids? Yes and no. You don't force them but you show them as you go along what your belief is and then they have their own choice. You don't get everything right but at least you can show how you handle things, even in the bad times.

Then they have a choice, around 13 or 14 when they start to question their parents' beliefs, and by 16 they have normally pretty clearly made their decision for the time being. The evidence is that if you put firm boundaries in with a lot of love you get good results.

In our case four out of five of our lads are interested in continuing with being religious. I'm disappointed at the moment that my 18-year-old has decided not to go to church, and I'm hoping that in the future he'll change his mind. But I don't want to push him.

I think the Church needs to give more love out. The Church needs to let people know that Christians care about them, regardless of how they live their lives - that's what Jesus would have done.'
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 16, 2005
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