According to Communio’s Nationwide Study on Faith and Relationships, absent fathers and collapsed marriages are two major reasons Christianity is declining in the United States.
The study considered the responses of 9,000 Sunday church attendees from 112 Evangelical, Protestant and Catholic congregations in 13 states. It found that regular church attendees were more likely to have fathers in their lives, and 80 percent of Sunday churchgoers were raised in homes where both biological parents were present during their childhood.
The study also found that “boys who grew up in homes with married parents are considerably more likely to attend church regularly as adults.”
Communio President J.P. DeGance, who assisted in the study, noted that it isn’t the lack of ministry outreach driving young people away from the Church.
“We’ve never spent more money in the history of the church to transmit our faith to our young people, and yet they’re falling away at higher and higher numbers,” DeGance told The Christian Post.
“The reason for the decline in faith is unpacked in the study; that the absence of a married home where dad is warmly engaged in the life of his child is the cause of the fire that is the source of the reason less and less people believe,” he continued.
“Unless we get deeply effective and strategic about increasing the number of Christian marriages and young people raised in homes with faithful and healthy Christian families, we’re going to continue to see an increase in religious non-affiliation,” DeGance said.
DeGrance also turned to the Bible when describing the importance of a healthy relationship.
“Throughout the Old Testament and into the New Testament, God’s love is told spousally, most frequently that God is chasing after the Church like a bride. And when Jesus comes at the end of time, He is going to be looking for His bride,” DeGance said.
“I think it shouldn’t surprise us that when the human analog of marriage and the family breaks down, it’s a lot harder for a young person to understand that there’s a Father in Heaven, ‘who so loved [them] that He sent His only Son to die for [them].'”
“This becomes difficult when someone has never been able to relate to a dad in a healthy way, if they perhaps hate their dad or have a difficult relationship with their dad.”
The study anticipates that “the overall population of the religious nones is unlikely to stabilize until 25-30 years after family structure has stabilized.”
“The number of young people being born and raised and reaching adulthood in a home where mom and dad stayed continuously married appears to have been constant over the last 10 years. In some sense, that’s some good news; at least temporarily, it seems to be stabilized. This is incredibly important for churches,” DeGance said.
“I see this as a great opportunity to advance the Gospel, that churches can become schools of love. They can actually help form people to discern relationships well, and to form healthy dating relationships that can actually lead to marriage and to help Christians who married to have a thriving and healthy Christ-centered marriage,” he said.
“All of that is within the reach and power of the Church. And if the Church answers this time of crisis with this kind of approach, the study would suggest that you’re going to see a great revival.”
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.