Collapse in marriage and lack of ‘resident fatherhood’ lead decline in Christianity – study

by Jacob Fuller

Matt Bush, FISM News

A new nationwide study by Communio reveals that a 40-year decline in marriage and what the study calls “resident fatherhood” may offer the best explanation for why Christianity is declining in America.

According to the Christian Post, the study “draws on survey responses from 19,000 Sunday church attendees conducted during worship in 112 Evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic congregations.”

The key numbers from the study are as follows:

  • Less than half of all adults under 30 today grew up in a home with married parents.
  • 80% of all church goers had continuously married parents through childhood. This trend held across age groups and was visible among young adults.
  • 87% of all 25-to-29-year-old, never-married men in the church had continuously married parents.

The numbers show that the decline of the nuclear family, meaning both a mother and a father are present, appears to fuel the decline of the church.

“Despite scriptural teaching to the contrary, research has shown that most never-married Christian men and women are not living lives of sexual chastity. This engagement in sexual relationships outside of marriage coincides with and likely fuels delays and declines in marriage,” wrote JP De Gance, founder and president of Communio. “The delay in marriage represents what some scholars have called the shift from a cornerstone view of marriage to the view of marriage as a capstone institution.”

In the cornerstone view of marriage, the institution is seen as “an essential relationship to construct a happy and successful life” and is a means to “grow in holiness” for both spouses.

In the capstone model, on the other hand, single Christians have been swayed by secular beliefs about marriage. In this model, “marriage is entered into only after getting ahead in life and after reaching some preset level of financial and personal achievement.”

According to De Gance, “Individuals who pursue the capstone model often have a longer list of requirements before selecting an ideal ‘soulmate.’ Sex before marriage is common in this model.”

As more Christians are having sex before marriage, the percentage of births that occur outside of marriage has increased dramatically. The study states that “In 1960, 5% of all births were outside of marriage. By 1970, nonmarital births had more than doubled. That number nearly reached 20% in 1980 and nearly 30% by 1990.”

Divorce rates surged at a similar level: “8% of all ever-married women between ages 50-54 had divorced in 1960. By 1970, that number had reached 11%, 16% in 1980, and was 36% by 2010.”

There is a clear correlation between those numbers and the growth of “religious nones” in America.

In 1980, religious ‘nones’ were only 7% of the U.S. population. By the late 1990s, they had grown to 13%, and 22% by the late 2010s. Today, 29% of the population are counted among the nones.

Declining attendance in churches across America has been occurring for years. Articles like these from Pew Research, Gallup, Christianity Today, and FISM all use clear data and polling to show that the decline has been happening and continues to grow.

Pastors and church leaders have long tried to describe the reason for this decline in church membership. Many point to things like secularism, COVID-19, moral decay, politics, the media, and many other reasons for the decline of the church.

This Communio poll, however, uses data to show a clear correlation between Christian views of marriage and the subsequent decline of the nuclear family and the decline of the church.

It is easy for pastors and church leaders to speak against things that almost always occur outside of the church like abortion, homosexuality, rising crime, etc. According to this article, and common sense, however, speaking against these topics does not get to the root of what is happening to our churches.

According to this article, the decline of fatherhood, weaker emphasis on marriage and parenting, divorce rates, and the decline of the nuclear family is the root of the damage being done to the church.