Why do one-third of pastors' kids drop out of church?

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Why do one-third of pastors’ kids drop out of church?

November 13, 2013 - Jim Denison, PhD

Katy Perry celebrates Thanksgiving with family and tweets this photo of her and her grandmother holding Katy's new baby niece (Credit: Katy Perry via Twitter)

What do Rick Warren, Katy Perry and Jessica Simpson have in common?  They’re all pastors’ kids.  A fascinating new study of children of the clergy is making news today, with some remarkable insights for us all.

You’ve probably heard of the stereotypical prodigal pastor’s kid who was raised in the church but wants nothing to do with God today.  Actually, only seven percent of pastor’s kids no longer consider themselves to be Christians.  This is below average: nine percent of their peers would say the same.  Southern Baptist and other evangelical pastors’ kids are even less likely to reject the faith, at three and two percent, respectively.

However, 33 percent of pastors’ kids are no longer actively involved in church.  Pastors account for this fact in a variety of ways: unrealistic expectations placed on their children by others and exposure to negative aspects of church life head the list.  While only five percent “wish they had given their children more Bible teaching,” 42 percent “wish they had spent more time with their children.”

Contrast this fact with Jewish culture.  Last week, our Holy Land study group toured the Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv.  The museum was designed by poet Abba Kovner, who explained its purpose: “This is the story of a people which was scattered over all the world and yet remained a single family; and a nation which time and again was doomed to destruction and yet, out of ruins, rose to a new life.”

How have the Jewish people remained so united across so many centuries of persecution and dispersal?  Their shared traditions.  Entrance to the community begins at circumcision.  Observant Jews follow kosher dietary laws with every meal; some wear Hasidic clothing every day and are educated in Jewish schools.  Their youth observe Bar and Bat Mitzvah, marry only within Judaism and have large families.

Observant Jews share a Sabbath meal together every Friday night followed by synagogue attendance on Saturday, and celebrate nine holy days during the year.  Ten Jewish males are needed to hold a synagogue service.  While our Western culture exalts the self-made individual, Jewish culture elevates the family and community of faith.

Does their worldview work?  Their number has never exceeded 3.5 percent of the American population, but they have produced 37 percent of our Nobel Laureates.  The Jewish people have successfully maintained their identity across 40 centuries.  

Who is your faith family?  With whom do you share intercession, Bible study and life challenges?  If you take a coal out of the fire it goes out—keep it with the other coals and it stays lit.  God expects us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).  Who is carrying your burden today?

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