A 1994 statistical report from Switzerland (“The demographic characteristics of the linguistic and religious groups in Switzerland” by Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner) shows the crucial impact of church attendance by fathers.
* If both father and mother attended church regularly then 33 per cent of their children became regular churchgoers, a further 41 per cent irregular attenders and about a quarter not practicing at all.
* If the mother was a regular church attender but the father irregular then only 3 per cent of their children became regular church attenders, 59 per cent irregular attenders and 38 per cent non-attenders.
* If the father was non-practicing and the mother regular only 2 per cent of children were regular and 37 per cent irregular church attenders. 61 per cent did not attend church at all.
* Surprisingly, if the father is a regular church attender the children’s religious practice varied in an inverse relationship to their mothers’ practice. If the mother was regular 33 per cent of children were regular. If she was an irregular attender then 38 per cent of children were regular. If the mother was non-practicing then 44 per cent of children became regular attenders.
* Even when the father is an irregular attender and the mother non- practicing 25 per cent of the children were regular attenders and 23 per cent irregular attenders.
In summary, if a father does not go to church, no matter how regular the mother is in her religious practice, only one child in 50 becomes a regular church attender. But if a father attends regularly then regardless of the practice of the mother at least one child in three will become a regular church attender.It may seem strange that it appears better to have a father who is a regular church goer but a mother who is not. I attribute this to the fact that within the group of both parents being regular church goers, there are some where the mother is the spiritual head and the father is simply tagging along. When the father is the only church going parent he is more likely the spiritual head of the family as well. What matters most is fathers fulfilling their God-given role of being the spiritual head of the family and raising their children in the faith. That shouldn’t seem strange, given Ephesians 6:4.