Godly Leadership: The Spiritual Role of the Father in His Family

By Nancy Flory Published on February 15, 2016

Church attendance strengthens relationships and makes couples happier, a new study finds. The Institute for Family Studies performed a study of 1,600 working-age adults aged 18-59 years in heterosexual relationships and found that regular church attendance impacts relationship quality for the couples.

According to the study, men who attend church regularly with or without their spouses have happier relationships overall. Women who attended church alone were least likely to report being “extremely happy” in their relationships, even less than couples who didn’t attend church at all.

Bradford Wilcox and Nicholas H. Wolfinger, the sociologists who performed the study, speculate about why couples were happier when the man attended with or without his partner and least happy when the woman attended church alone. One theory is that “religious services may be particularly effective in turning the hearts and minds of men towards their partner’s welfare and the relationship more generally,” although it could also be that women who attend church alone have higher expectations of their partner’s behavior and are disappointed when their partner fails to live up to those expectations.

Another key finding in the study is that praying together also creates a happier relationship. According to Wilcox and Wolfinger, shared prayer likely heightens a “sense of emotional intimacy … and a sense of divine involvement in one’s relationship.” The couple’s act of shared prayer, along with attending church with friends, leads to greater happiness for couples. In this case, say Wilcox and Wolfinger, the saying is true: The couple that prays together stays together.

But it isn’t just the couple who is happy. According to Dean Smith from OpentheWord.org, a study by Swiss researchers Werner Haug and Phillipe Warner of Switzerland’s Statistics office researched how church attendance affects the couple’s children in the long run, including whether they attend church as adults. For children whose parents did not attend church, it’s no surprise that 80% did not attend church as adults. When only their mothers attended church, the study found that 61% did not attend church as adults.

However, Haug and Warner found that when the children’s fathers attended church regularly, even when their mothers attended irregularly, only 18% did not attend church as adults. In a possible answer to Wilcox and Wolfinger’s question about why the man’s influence was more important to the happiness of the family and church attendance later in life, Haug and Warner speculate that “[f]or some reason, the mother’s indifference strengthened the father’s influence in the spiritual development of the family.”

What’s more, boys aren’t the only ones to benefit from this aspect of their father’s influence. Girls look to their fathers as role models in this area as well. According to Anglican Vicar Robbie Low, “When the child begins to move into that differentiation from home and engagement with the world out there, he (and she) looks increasingly to the father for that role model.”

Dean Smith points out that single mothers should not be discouraged, however — the study did not take into account the influence of a “true faith in God, belief in prayer and working of the Holy Spirit.” He also refers to 2 Timothy 1:5, as Paul acknowledges Timothy’s mother and grandmother as significant spiritual role models in Timothy’s life.

Smith believes that Kathy Woodward, in her Western Standard article “Father Knows Best,” summed up the influence of fatherhood perfectly:

The leadership of the man within a family is like the law of gravity: you can try to wish it away; you can argue it’s unfair. But walk off the edge of a building and you plummet. Likewise with fatherhood — try to ignore it and your civilization collapses.

The studies point to the significant importance of men within the family, not only for their partners, but for their sons and daughters — and with long-term repercussions.



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