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Toddlers best poised to learn biblical worldview, research shows


GLENDALE, Ariz. (BP) – Children begin developing a worldview as early as 15 months old, and parents are doing a poor job of discipling children during formative years, researcher George Barna said in his latest findings.

Worldviews are largely in place by age 13 and don’t change throughout the remaining lifespan, said Barna, director of research at Arizona Christian University’s (ACU) Cultural Research Center and founder of The Barna Group, the Texas-based research group he sold in 2009.

“I want to wake people up – especially the parents of young children as well as individuals who have significant cultural influence,” Barna said in a press release Sept. 5, “to understand that time is of the essence in transforming how we raise children.”

Christians have taken an ill approach in developing biblical worldviews in society by focusing mainly on adults instead of children, said Barna, who has researched faith, culture and worldview more than 40 years.

“The nation has clearly been going in the wrong direction for decades when it comes to worldview,” he said. “What became abundantly clear during my research is there is little objective information about conditions related to the faith, discipleship, and worldview of children. And parents desperately need resources and support to help them in the spiritual development of their children.”

Although Christians have focused on adults in teaching biblical worldviews, Barna found the approach has resulted in only 4 percent of American adults having a biblical worldview.

Barna explores his findings, their ramifications and prescriptions for change in his latest book, “Raising Spiritual Champions: Nurturing Your Child’s Heart, Mind and Soul,” and shares key insights here.

Barna asserts from his research:

  • Most parents outsource to others the spiritual development of their children, along with other key child-rearing tasks;
  • 58 percent of parents who are born-again Christians believe they have the primary responsibility for the development of their children;
  • 94 percent of parents of preteens have worldviews that are a “hodge-podge mixture of competing and often conflicting worldviews;”
  • 22 percent of parents of preteens are born-again Christians and of those, 8 percent have a biblical worldview.

Adults don’t usually change their worldview unless they encounter a major life crisis, Barna said in establishing four worldview phases:

  • Ages 1-12, a lifelong groundwork is laid;
  • Ages 13-24, the foundation is refined, articulated and applied to daily life;
  • Ages 25-59, individuals become “evangelists” promoting their own worldview;
  • Beyond age 59, individuals reflect on how their life philosophy has worked.

Barna asserts that parents are the first responders in discipling their children to live from a biblical worldview, basing his view on Scripture including Deuteronomy 6:1-9; Proverbs 2: 1-13, 22:6 23:13, and 29: 17; and Ephesians 6:4.

He advises parents to believe that their most important task is to raise their children to know, love and serve God fully, and offers strategies in his book to fulfill the task.

Barna’s findings are based on two years of research from seven original research studies related to intentionally raising children with a biblical worldview defined as biblical theism, and are a collaborative effort of the ACU Cultural Research Center and the Family Research Council. Included are findings from the 2021 American Worldview Inventory based on responses from 2,000 adults and gauging worldviews including biblical theism, postmodernism, secular humanism, moralistic, therapeutic deism, Marxism, Eastern mysticism and nihilism.

Embracing biblical Christianity, ACU’s Cultural Research Center conducts the annual American Worldview Inventory and other nationwide surveys regarding cultural transformation.