Knowing that Nones are the fastest growing “religious group” in the United States, it’s natural to wonder–so what exactly do “Nones” teach their children when it comes to religion or other worldview questions?
Christel Manning’s “Losing Our Religion: How Unaffiliated Parents Are Raising Their Children” offers new insight into the diversity within this growing population of parents in the U.S. (If interested, check out other key takeaways from her book here).
Key Point #4: How Nones Form Their Children’s Worldviews
When it Comes to Worldview, What Do Nones Do To Raise Their Children? (Table 5.1)
Options for Incorporating Worldview into Upbringing of Child (below)
|Intentionally incorporate worldview into home life||Enroll child in institution that transmits worldview||Change in parent affiliation|
|conventional||Yes (Judaism, Christianity)||Yes (CCD, Sunday School, Hebrew School, etc.)||From None to Christian or Jewish denomination|
|alternative||Yes (secular philosophy or seeker spirituality)||Yes (plural worldview education)||Yes (from None to UU or AHA)|
|outsourcing||No||Yes (CCD, Sunday school, Hebrew School)||No|
What we see in the chart is that Manning identified five general “types” of how None parents seek to transmit worldviews to their children–conventional, alternative, self-provider, outsourcing, non-provider. She concludes:
There is more variety in how Nones raise their children than existing research would imply. It is not just a choice between doing nothing and going back to church (136).
And on top of this, contemporary American religious life has a general “fluidity,” so Nones (like all Americans) are likely to shift between methods (whether deliberately or not).
What to think?
- Manning suggests, “These five options for incorporating worldviews into the upbringing of a child could, theoretically, be applied to churched parents as well” (p. 186) –> Yes! In Children’s Ministries we can grow in awareness that even our faithful churched parents have different methods for sharing the faith at home. Since in Catholic teachings the parent is the primary catechist, how we in ministry empower and support parents is critical.
- Many Nones take a “conventional” approach, which means they come to church programs and often even change their affiliation as a result, this is a significant opportunity!
- “Outsourcing” parents represent a more challenging opportunity–the kids are at church, but nothing at home. Capturing the interest of these parents is likely the special task for our discernment and on-going consideration. It’s not easy in a busy world, but there’s a point of trust with their child to build on.
- There’s a place for marketing children’s ministry outside of parish communities. None parents are clearly in the marketplace for “institutions” and organizations to offer formation for their children. They might select your program for completely non-religious reasons (i.e. the environment is engaging, the schedule works, etc.) — this is an opportunity for outreach.
As always, feel free to offer your own insights, observations, and applications in the Comment box.