What is the connection between childhood faith and adult religious commitment?
The Barna Group asked adults to think back on their upbringing and to describe the frequency of their involvement in Sunday school or religious training. More than 80 percent remembered consistently attending Sunday school, or having some other religious training, before the age of 12. Seven out of 10 said they attended religious programs weekly as young children.
About 70 percent also recalled going to Sunday school or to other religious programs for teens, at least once a month. And half indicated they had gone to such teen programs at least once a week.
The researchers then examined four elements of adult religious commitment. Among those who frequently attended Sunday school or other religious programs as children, 50 percent said they had attended a worship service in the last week. That is slightly higher than the national average, and is well ahead of those who rarely or never attended children’s programs. Among those who frequently attended religious programs as teenagers, 58 percent said they had attended a worship service in the last week.
David Kinnaman, president of The Barna Group, said it’s important to realize that the research does not prove that a person’s spiritual activity as a young person causes him or her to be spiritually engaged as an adult. “However, the study shows that most American adults recall frequent faith activity when they were growing up,” he said. “Moreover, it provides clarity that the odds of one sticking with faith over a lifetime are enhanced in a positive direction by spiritual activity under the age of 18.”