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Survey Reveals Communication Breakdown Among Church Leaders, Parents, Schools


March 19, 2019

OTTAWA – A newly released survey of clergy in the United States points to the need for new conversations and partnerships among churches, parents, and schools to address spiritual formation in Generation Z. The Barna Group, in partnership with think tank Cardus, conducted the survey of 650 clergy in Mainline Protestant, Non-mainline Protestant, and Catholic churches. 

The survey captured church leaders’ perceptions of education and spiritual formation. Key findings include:

  • 65% of Protestant pastors and 50% of Catholic priests perceive schooling generally to be a negative influence on a child’s spiritual formation. 
  • More than half of non-mainline Protestant (56%) and four in 10 Catholic clergy say they haven’t addressed the topic of school choice even once in the last year. In both cases, fewer than half of church leaders say parents even asked about it.
  • Only 20% of Protestant clergy and 17% of Catholic clergy reported prioritizing training for parents for the spiritual formation of their children. 

An analysis of Cardus Education Survey U.S. data finds a measurable and positive influence that Christian schooling has on spiritual formation. The data clearly demonstrate that graduates of Christian schools are more likely to pray, read the Bible and attend church regularly, and tithe than their public school counterparts are. This school effect is distinct from the influence of family, socio-economic background, or church life.

“Church and family life are important in the spiritual formation of young adults, but our research reinforces that schools play an important role too,” says Ray Pennings, Cardus executive vice-president. “Church leaders, parents, and educators must understand the positive influence of Christian schooling on spiritual formation and work together to ensure that these schooling options are genuinely available for as many families as possible.”

The Barna findings and a commentary on the numbers by Ray Pennings are both available online.

Daniel Proussalidis
Cardus – Director of Communications
613-241-4500 x508