In the last several posts, I have been looking at a lot of data from Shaunti Feldhahn’s, The Good News About Marriage. I have been throwing out a lot of statistics, and that won’t change today, that I think show a much brighter picture for marriages than we have been led to believe. The goal of this series of posts is to present a glimmer of hope for everyone out there fighting for their marriage. I also want to point out to take these statistics as just that….statistics. If for some reason there is a statistical study I give out that you are on the bad side of that does not mean that your marriage is going to fail because of that. Likewise, if your marriage is rocking on the good side of this data that is a great thing, but there is no certainty that your marriage will be a cake walk.
There was a Barna study several years ago that really was a gut punch to churchgoers across the nation when it came out. The study said that Christians had the same divorce rate as non-Christians. This study coupled with the erroneous reports that 50 percent of marriages ends in divorce really made churchgoers wonder where everything had gone wrong. How could it be possible that people in a supposedly Godly marriage could struggle with marriage just as much as the rest of the world?
The first fault, as we saw a couple of posts ago, is that the divorce rate overall is nowhere near 50 percent. Secondly, the Barna study was conducted and based on the idea of anyone who professed to hold Christian beliefs serving as the Christian category. Their results showed a roughly 33 to 34 percent divorce rate among Christians and non-Christians. The fault obviously with the study is that if you go down the streets of most neighborhoods in the US you will find a large percentage of people who would identify themselves as having Christian beliefs that have had no real involvement with any church activities for most of their life.
So, let’s look at some studies that represent an active churchgoer a little better.
- A Barna Group study from 2008 found a 27% drop in the divorce rate among those surveyed that had been to church in the last week. This was a 10% less divorce rate than non-Christians. Those in the study that identified themselves as evangelical or Catholics that were weekly attenders were found to have an even lower divorce rate at 25% and 22% respectively.
- In a National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH) study, documented by Dr. Brad Wilcox in The Cultural Contradictions of Mainline Family Ideology and Practice, it was found that the divorce rate dropped by roughly 50% for those who regularly attend worship services.
- Another NSFH study, documented by Dr. Christopher Ellison in Religious Influences on the Risk of Marital Dissolution, found that couples with same-faith unions in which both partners attend services regularly had a 35 to 50 percent lower odds of dissolution than same-faith unions with less frequent attendance.
- A FamilyLife study in 2012 conducted exclusively in more than 50 churches of over 6000 people found only 22.4 percent of those surveyed as divorce.
So, those studies look primarily at how church attendance plays a role in reducing divorce rates versus non-attenders. Let’s now change up and look at some studies on what impacts church attendance may have on a marriage.
- Brad Wilcox with NSFH published a report titled The State of Our Unions in 2011 that “found that couples in which both partners agree that “God is at the center of our marriage” are twice as likely to be at the highest level of happiness in marriage compared with those who do not share that type of faith commitment.”
- A PREPARE/ENRICH study by Dr. David Olson titled Spiritual Beliefs and Marriage found that “the more couples agreed with each other on personal spiritual beliefs and practices, the better were their scores in areas such as marital satisfaction, conflict resolution, and couple closeness.” Using an index called the couple closeness scale, couples with high spiritual agreement scored roughly twice as high as couples with low spiritual agreement.
- A FamilyLife study called the Marriage Oneness Profile found that 68% of highly connected couples pray together regularly. Likewise, 73% of highly disconnected couples reported no regular prayer with their spouse.
I hope you find that these statistics are refreshing and possibly rejuvenating in how you trust that marriages where God is in the center are more successful and offer more marital fulfillment. The studies I have listed are only short bullet points hitting the highlights of this data. You can find more in depth information about these studies in Shaunti Feldhahn’s book or the individual studies themselves. I hope that you are finding that there really is some good news worth getting out there about marriage.