Research into the lifestyles of Christians reveals that they are happier in their marriages and better at staying married than non-Christians. They are also highly likely to accept outside help and advice to keep their marriages healthy.
How’s the Family?, the latest report in the 21st Century Evangelicals series carried out by the Evangelical Alliance (UK), looks at trends in Christian relationships, including what a typical Christian family looks like, insights into how Christians find partners, and what Christians do when relationships go wrong. The research also shows that Christians are much better at protecting their marriage, with the credit for this going to lifestyle choices commonly associated with Christians.
The typical lifestyle choices of Christians who go on to happy and lengthy marriages are that they marry young (at 25 on average compared to over 30 in the general population), are less likely to have lived together as a couple, and are willing to participate in activities that support and maintain their relationship. Supporting activities are often provided by their own church.
Steve Clifford, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, says:
“Families aren’t always easy to live with but Christians do seem to have a high level of commitment to making them work. The message this research gives us is that most Christian couples refuse to simply walk away from relationships when they get tough. They are not afraid to seek help from professionals and advice from their church, family and friends. Christian marriages are not perfect but they show fewer signs of following the cultural trend of giving up and separating. During Marriage Week, the Church should recognise this and be proud to boast a model of marriage that is healthy and sustainable.”
Results of the survey included:
- Christian evangelicals are far less likely to live in single-parent households – four per cent, compared with 12 per cent nationally.
- There are 1.7 single females in evangelical congregations for every man. This figure rises in the over-55s to three women to every man. This is reflected in the amount of women marrying non-Christians: 23 per cent compared to 13 per cent of men.
- Counter-cultural trends exist. For example two thirds are married compared to 49 per cent of the population. The number divorced is half that of the UK average.
- Secrets to the success of sustainable marriage of Christians are probably found in their preparations for marriage – over half had had formal preparation such as a course run at their local church.
- 29 per cent had sought help in their marriage, with the top three reasons being: communication difficulties, infidelity, and sexual problems.
- Nearly 10 per cent of people said they had received physical abuse and seven per cent said they had given it. These figures compare with 25 per cent of women across Europe saying they had experienced domestic violence at least once.
- While there is some evidence that many Christian parents hand down their faith commitment to the next generation, the report estimates that only 50 per cent of children brought up by Christian parents become adult believers. Thankfully the Church is enriched by significant numbers who come to faith as adults, including 11 per cent of the married couples in our sample who both came to faith after their marriage.
The survey is available online at:
Two new resources will help church groups engage with the research. For discussion questions: www.eauk.org/snapshot/discuss.cfm and for help with group presentations: www.eauk.org/snapshot/read.cfm
The aim of these surveys is to provide churches and Christian organisations with the type of data that will help them better understand and work with the communities they serve.