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According to the latest report by the Barna Research Group (BRG), adults who attended church regularly as a child are three times as likely to be churchgoers as adults than are peers who avoided church during childhood. They are also much more likely than their unchurched peers to be involved in church-based and personal spiritual activities.

The BRG survey of 1,003 adults found that roughly 71 percent of those interviewed had regularly attended church as youngsters. Sixty-one percent of those who attended church as a youngster still attend regularly, while 78 percent of those who were not churchgoers as children remain absent from churches.

But the California-based Christian organization said the most shocking finding of its study was the limited impact long-term church attendance has had on the theological beliefs of Americans.

The survey revealed that adults from both churched and unchurched backgrounds held similar views — often at odds with biblical teaching — regarding the existence of the Holy Spirit, the reality of Satan, the means to eternal salvation, the perceived accuracy of the Bible and the holiness of Jesus Christ.

“People who were churched as youths were much more likely to state that their religious faith is very important in their life today, but there was not much evidence that such faith had made much of an impact on their belief structure,” BRG president George Barna said.

The survey discovered that churched -as- children individuals were twice as likely as unchurched -as- children adults to be born again Christians (44 percent vs. 24 percent).

However, a minority of both groups believes in the existence of the Holy Spirit and of Satan, and a majority believes that eternal salvation can be achieved by doing enough good deeds. Only a minority of both camps strongly believes that the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches.

The study also revealed that church attendance is declining through the generations, regardless of childhood church experience. The drop is steeper, though, among adults who did not go to church as a child.

The study noted that church growth experts have long held that one of the major reasons why unchurched people return to a church is to give their children meaningful religious experiences. “While there is clearly merit to that argument, the research suggests that this benefit may not be as substantial as in the past,” it concluded.

Overall, 63 percent of adults who attended church as children now take their own children. In contrast, only 33 percent of adults who were not churched bring their own children to a house of worship.

“Attending a church appears to be more a function of one’s personal experience when young than a sense of responsibility to one’s own children,” Barna commented.

From barna.org by way of Christianity Today