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Faith Decline Among Families...Why It's Happening and What We Can Do

Look around. It is obvious that faith is declining among families.

Research by Communio Nationwide Study on Faith and Relationships reveals that the collapse in marriage and the decline in fatherhood may be the biggest reason for the decline of Christianity among families.

According to the study, family decline fuels faith decline.

Families that attend church faithfully are most likely to have resident fathers.

Consider these findings:

  • Less than 1/2 of all young adults today had continuously married parents growing up.

  • 80% of all churchgoers had continuously married parents growing up.

  • In 1960, 5% of all births were outside of marriage.

  • By the 1990's, 30% of all births were outside of marriage.

  • In 2021, 40% of all births were to unmarried women.

  • Less than half of all 17-year-olds reached their birthday with two married parents.

  • Today, 29% of the population are nones (no religious affiliation).

The structure of a person's childhood greatly determines if they attend church or not as adults. Here's an example. The break-up of a family through divorce often produces children who have no religious affiliation. What about fathers? Fathers are supposed to be the spiritual leader of the home. Healthy fatherhood is a major factor in producing children who are spiritually healthy. When this breaks down, it affects children's faith.

For religious transmissions, having a close bond with one’s father matters even more than a close relationship with the mother. Clearly the quality of the child’s relationship with his or her father is important for the internalization of the parent’s religious tradition, beliefs, and practices. (quote from Oxford University Press)

Dr. Paul Vitz, emeritus professor of psychology at New York University, says that when a child is not able to form a healthy attachment to his or her father it often manifests itself in the later loss of faith.

Christians of all traditions must find ways to restore healthy marriages to our families, to our churches, and throughout society more broadly if the Gospel can hold and again gain ground in America and across the rest of the west.

As we read these findings, it must be a wake-up call. We must reach and disciple parents. We must equip parents to be the spiritual leaders of the home. We must help families build strong marriages. If the biggest reason for faith decline is family decline, then we must begin focusing on helping parents build strong marriages.

We don't need more children's ministry. We need more parent ministry.

82% of married men and 81% of married women who attend church consistently grew up in a home where the parents remained married. We must always be thinking about parents.

How can I equip parents to lead their children spiritually?

How can I extend the lesson from church into the home?

How can I help parents build strong marriages?

How can I get parents involved in their child's discipleship at church?

We must emphasize the sanctity of marriage.

Cohabiting couples are five more times likely to break up instead of getting married. The most unsafe living environment for any child is to live in a home with his mom and her cohabiting boyfriend.

The decline of married fatherhood created a shock to our culture leading to increases in the number of bad outcomes for children, and it has caused the rapid decline in Christianity over the last 40 years. Marriage rates have dropped 31 percent since 2000 and 61 percent since 1970.

As ministry leaders, we must help parents adopt strategies and approaches to restore marriage and improve fatherhood.

Only when we do this will we see faith begin to grow and flourish among families.


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