Faith

Reading the Bible as a Child Translates to Faith as an Adult, Study Finds

YouTube screenshot of MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and his co-host Mika Brzezinski

A popular children’s song asserts, “Read your Bible, pray every day, and you’ll grow, grow, grow.” A new study conducted by Lifeway Research has provided hard evidence to support the song’s claim. Revealing that “the biggest factor predicting… spiritual health as young adults is whether they read the Bible regularly as kids.” LifeWay Research brings home the truth that God’s Word is to be read, loved, and obeyed.

Sadly, many professing Christians bristle at the suggestion that we should read our Bible every day. Accusations of legalism are tossed at those who encourage fellow believers to set aside a block of time every day to study the Bible. In our day and age that celebrates individual autonomy, anything that seems like a rule is immediately met with contempt. However, the Psalmist confesses, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day… Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:97, 105).

LifeWay’s study was conducted with the specific purpose of finding out “what parenting practices pay off over the long haul when it comes to spiritual health.”

As Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, explains, “Churchgoing parents want to pass on their faith to their kids—and to see their children make that faith their own. But they don’t always know how best to make that happen.”

Surveying 2,000 Christian parents, LifeWay Research took a twofold approach to the study:

First, researchers asked parents about 40 factors that could affect a child’s moral and spiritual development. Among them: whether the child’s parents had been divorced, whether the family prayed or ate meals together, what kind of school the child attended, how often the child went to church or youth group, and even what kind of music the child listened to growing up.

LifeWay Research then asked parents to describe their adult children’s spiritual health, using eight observable factors. Each child received one point if he or she:

  • 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.

Parents gave observations for a total of 3,472 adult children. Eighty-five percent identify as Christians, according to their parents, giving them at least 1 point on the 8-point spiritual health scale. 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).

LifeWay Research then compared the results of all these young adults to find out which factors predict the highest spiritual condition.”

Among other conclusions, the research revealed that Bible reading is the most important variable in helping to determine future spiritual health. “Twenty-nine percent of the young adults regularly read the Bible while growing up, according to their parents. On average, that group has 12.5 percent higher spiritual health than otherwise comparable individuals who didn’t, LifeWay Research found.”

Christians are expected to read and love God’s Word. LifeWay Research simply demonstrates what the Bible already teaches.