Churches must work to restore healthy marriages and fatherhood to combat a growing decline in Christianity. That’s the finding of a survey by faith-based group Communio which seeks to equip churches to strengthen the marriage and relationship health of their members.
The survey was completed by 19,000 parishioners at more than 100 churches across multiple denominations and US states. It found 80% of churchgoers grew up in homes where their mother and father stayed married. Nearly 90% of churchgoing men in their mid- to late twenties who had never married, had parents who remain married. Adults who reported a close relationship with their fathers were more likely to report having the same faith as their parents whereas a close relationship with mothers was not as influential on one’s faith.
“So what this means is folks in church on Sunday are categorically more likely to have grown up with a resident dad in the home than someone who is not in church on Sunday,” said Communio president and founder J. P. De Gance. He noted that the results are not “definitive,” as one in five people in church grew up without married parents. “But it does make it less likely for those folks to show up on Sunday morning,” he added.
Mr. De Gance asserted that a “married dad” is the “missing ingredient” in congregations. He said the study’s results suggest that the decline in resident fatherhood and the collapse of marriage are likely explanations for the increase in religious non-affiliation throughout the United States. The survey showed religious non-affiliation began to rise in the mid-1980s and rapidly grew in the mid-90s.
He asserted that Christians should not find this information surprising, highlighting the Bible’s allusions to marriage. “The most common analogy that God tells for the divine love story is the spousal love story, right? So fundamentally, for those in the church interested in seeing a renewal of faith, need to see a renewal of marriage. Christian marriage is central to that,” he underlined.
The Communio president contended that if churches can accomplish this, then they can also resolve the loneliness epidemic. The survey highlighted that half of all adults in the United States are experiencing loneliness, while 22% of churchgoers are considered lonely. In addition, the survey noted that single churchgoers are more than three times more likely to be considered lonely, compared to their married counterparts (15%).