Last time we looked at the delay of marriage and its challenge for sexual purity among unmarrieds. Today I want to look at its impact on church attendance.
Did you notice a demographic missing from your pews this past Sunday morning? If your church is like most in America you would find very few 20-somethings and early 30-somethings in your church. There are, of course, many reasons for this. But one factor rarely mentioned is what is usually called “prolonged adolescence” and the delay of marriage in America.
Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, recently discussed this phenomenon on his radio program. He quotes an article from The Wall Street Journal by W. Bradford Wilcox who gives the following insight:
Religious attendance among those 21 to 45 years old is at its lowest level in decades, according to Princeton sociologist Robert Wuthnow. Only 25% of young adults now attend services regularly, compared with about one-third in the early 1970s.
The most powerful force driving religious participation down is the nation’s recent retreat from marriage, Mr. Wuthnow notes. Nothing brings women and especially men into the pews like marriage and parenthood, as they seek out the religious, moral and social support provided by a congregation upon starting a family of their own. But because growing numbers of young adults are now postponing or avoiding marriage and childbearing, they are also much less likely to end up in church on any given Sunday. Mr. Wuthnow estimates that America’s houses of worship would have about six million more regularly attending young adults if today’s young men and women started families at the rate they did three decades ago.
So, what do you think of this phenomenon? Does this sadden you? Do you wish more people would get married and start a family sooner so they would begin participating in the life of the church? Or, do you feel a degree of frustration with the folks who only seem to make faith a part of their life when they finally “settle down” and want their children to have some Christian instruction and background?
How have the different stages of your life affected your level of faith commitment and involvement in a local church?