By far one of the most important actions to create and protect a happy marriage is to put God at the center of your marriage and get plugged in to a church community.
Welcome to Marriage Month! From June 5 to July 4, join us here in the Book Corner as I share my top findings on the little, eye-opening things that make a big difference in creating great marriages and relationships. Today’s post is one of a series on the difference hope makes in marriage – and the 8 year investigation that debunked the discouraging myths we have all believed about marriage and divorce.
Tip 12: Go to church
One of the biggest myths discouraging churchgoers in recent decades is the notion that “George Barna found the rate of divorce is the same in the church.” On the contrary, George Barna found no such thing – and the real facts point us to a key action for anyone who wants strong, happy and long-lasting marriages.
First, let’s debunk the myth once and for all: the rate of divorce is not the same in the church as among those who don’t attend. When I was investigating the truth for The Good News About Marriages (BOGO offer from the publisher until June 30), George Barna himself confirmed that his study had been badly misunderstood. Their study was specifically about people’s belief systems and did not include whether the survey-taker went to church. So people who said they were Christian had the same divorce rates as those who said they were Muslim or atheist – and church attendance was never taken into account.
So to find what the truth was specifically for churchgoers, I partnered with Barna Group and we re-ran all the numbers to see what happened to divorce rates among those all those who actually went to church the week before… and the divorce rate dropped 27% compared to non-attenders!
In fact, all researchers who have looked at actual actions of faith (rather than just beliefs) have found average divorce rates plummet by 25-50% when someone actually attends church regularly!
There were many other cool things I uncovered, that are in the book, but the big picture is this: people who actually go to church regularly not only protect their marriages from divorce – they enjoy each other more, and have much happier marriages!
It may seem like such a little thing, but it turns out that plugging into a church community is one of the most important things you can ever do for your marriage. Not just if you’re in a difficult season, but to prevent yourself from getting into difficulties to begin with.
Why does church matter so much? The most important reason is probably that church attendance simply helps a couple look to God first and foremost in their relationship – which is vital for the selflessness and forgiveness necessary for any marriage.
But there’s another factor that is often overlooked – and it has implications for what sort of church attendance matters. Much research has confirmed that becoming part of a supportive, encouraging community, seeing friends regularly, sharing life together, and having people to turn to for advice can often do informally and quickly what many couples outside of church communities might have to pay professional therapists to do over the course of many years.
Just “going to church” won’t give you that. You need to plug in to friends. To people who can notice the frosty silence between you and your spouse for a few weeks and say “Are you guys okay…?” To have those you can talk with about the latest teaching and how it applies to your marriage. To develop relationships with people you can turn to for a listening ear.
One pastor of a mega church told me, “We have a great group of counselors with long waiting lists for people who need marriage help. And 95% of the waiting list would go away if these people would just plug into a small group and make some friends.”
Join us tomorrow for the facts about whether marriage really requires rocket science.
Drawn from Chapter 4 of The Good News About Marriage, by Shaunti Feldhahn.
Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage (now through June 30, buy a copy of Good News from your favorite retailer, and receive an additional copy FREE from Multnomah Books – up to 100 copies!) A Harvard-trained social researcher and speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Shaunti speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and corporate events. (Inquire about Shaunti speaking, or visit www.shaunti.com for more.)