Going to church means heavenly grades?

Filed under: Teens, Day Care & Education, Religion & Spirituality

Teens praying togetherI'm not sure there could be a worse headline, as far as I'm concerned: "Church Attendance Boosts Student GPA's." Luckily, it's not quite that simple. Researchers did find that going to church affects a teenager's grades, chances of dropping out, and sense of school community as much as whether or not the parents had college degrees, but it's not so much God's work as it is several other, identifiable factors.

The reasons for the improved performance include:
  • The students have role models they see regularly from multiple generations.
  • Parents are more likely to be in touch with the parents of their kids' friends.
  • It is more likely that their friends' families will have the same values and expectations as their own.
  • They tend toward higher rates of participation in extracurricular activities.
Other studies that have identified benefits of church attendance also pointed to the social networking and psychological aspects of being a member of a church as the key factors. If your kids attend church already, these findings may not be of much use to you, but not everyone goes to church or has any interest in doing so. For those of us in the latter category, this research has great value.
"If we use it to help explain why religious participation has a positive effect on academics," explains Jennifer Glanville, a sociologist at the University of Iowa and one of the scientists who compiled the report, "parents who aren't interested in attending church can consider how to structure their kids' time to allow access to the same beneficial social networks and opportunities religious institutions provide."

All of these factors seem like no-brainers to me, although I'll admit I hadn't actually considered the third reason. It makes sense, though, that if your kids' friends want to do well in school and know right from wrong, it will help your kids keep on the straight and narrow. Once again, though, it shows that it's the parents and community that make all the difference.

Says Glanville: "the act of attending church -- the structure and the social aspects associated with it -- could be more important to educational outcomes than the actual religion." So we don't really need God, we just need each other.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.