When I was in seminary, I had a professor who regularly would abbreviate or even forgo the Greek lesson for the day and offer some form of pastoral advice. One day, the advice went this way: “When you get in a church, spend your time with men. Be a man’s man and work to build into the men. If you spend time investing in children, you might get the children to stay. If you spend time with the women and mothers, you might also get a few of the children along with them. But if you spend time with the men, you will get the entire family. Invest your lives in discipling men.”
I thought of that professor’s advice when I read Justin Taylor’s blog this morning. Quoting another study from a few years ago about the influence of men on the worship habits of their children, he notes:
In short, if a father does not go to church, no matter how faithful his wife’s devotions, only one child in 50 will become a regular worshipper. If a father does go regularly, regardless of the practice of the mother, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will become churchgoers (regular and irregular). If a father goes but irregularly to church, regardless of his wife’s devotion, between a half and two-thirds of their offspring will find themselves coming to church regularly or occasionally.
A non-practicing mother with a regular father will see a minimum of two-thirds of her children ending up at church. In contrast, a non-practicing father with a regular mother will see two-thirds of his children never darken the church door. If his wife is similarly negligent that figure rises to 80 percent!
The results are shocking, but they should not be surprising. They are about as politically incorrect as it is possible to be; but they simply confirm what psychologists, criminologists, educationalists, and traditional Christians know. You cannot buck the biology of the created order. Father’s influence, from the determination of a child’s sex by the implantation of his seed to the funerary rites surrounding his passing, is out of all proportion to his allotted, and severely diminished role, in Western liberal society.
Two lessons: 1) Believing fathers do well to recognize the significance of their influence in the home — Eph. 5:22ff really is true; 2) churches do well to remember the advice of my professor and spend time on building into the lives of the men above all.