What do you believe are the three strongest threats to families in your community?  (By region)

Protestant clergy discuss the greatest threats to the family:

divorce, negative influences from the media, and materialism

(Original release date:  October 28, 2004)  In research results being released in the November/December edition of Facts & Trends magazine, Protestant clergy named divorce, negative influences from the media, and materialism as the three greatest threats to families in their communities.

 

The study, conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research) of Phoenix, Arizona among a representative sample of 695 Protestant church ministers nationwide, asked pastors to identify the three strongest threats to families in their own community.  

 

The three most commonly named threats were divorce (listed as one of the top three by 43% of all ministers), negative influences from the media (38%), and materialism (36%).  These were followed by absentee fathers (24%) and families that lack a stay-at-home parent (22%).  The rest of the list included:

 

· Co-habitation before marriage (18%)

· Pornography (17%)

· Morality not being taught in schools (14%)

· Poverty, unemployment, and/or a poor economy (13%)

· Parental alcohol use/abuse (12%)

· Parental drug use/abuse (11%)

· Drug use/abuse among teens or children (8%)

· Teen sexual involvement/activity (8%)

· Alcohol use/abuse among teens or children (6%)

· Adultery (5%)

· Poor schools or quality of education (4%)

· Teen pregnancy (2%)

· Sexual predators or sexual abuse (1%)

· The expense of child care (1%)

· Other issues (12%)

 

The perceived threats to family differed somewhat by region.  For instance, morality not being taught in schools was less frequently mentioned by pastors in the Midwest, while co-habitation was seen as much more of a threat there than in other regions.  Parental alcohol abuse was particularly felt by Western ministers, while absentee fathers were seen as a more serious problem in the South than elsewhere.

 

In many other studies, severe differences of opinion and perspective have repeatedly shown up between pastors from denominations with membership in the National Council of Churches and those with membership in the National Association of Evangelicals.  However, clergy from very different perspectives were often united in what they saw as threats to families; there were only few differences between these two groups on this issue.

 

Pastors in the NCC tended to be particularly worried about economic factors such as poverty and unemployment, as well as poor schools – two issues rarely mentioned by NAE members.  NAE member pastors were more likely than their mainline counterparts to worry about the impact of pornography, divorce, and absentee fathers.  But the two groups saw pretty much eye-to-eye on the impact of the other issues.

 

There were also some differences of opinion among different denominational groups.  (Although the study included a representative sample of all Protestant denominations throughout the U.S., only five groups were large enough to be evaluated separately:  Pentecostals, Methodists, Lutherans, Southern Baptists, and all other Baptist denominations.)

Methodists paid particular attention to parental alcohol and drug use, as well as economic issues, while seeing a lower-than-average threat from pornography and absentee fathers.  Lutherans were especially concerned about the impact of materialism and alcohol use by both parents and children, and far less worried than the typical pastor about absentee fathers and latch-key kids.

 

Pentecostals tended to be less worried than average about materialism, but particularly concerned that morality is not being taught in schools.  Southern Baptists tabbed divorce as a particular concern for families, but were less likely than average to worry about the impact of economic issues.

 

The study also asked clergy to agree or disagree with three statements about family.  A majority agreed with the statement “Churches tend to focus so much on ‘traditional’ families that they do not serve important groups such as singles, childless couples, or single parents appropriately.”  Twelve percent agreed strongly with this, and another 48% agreed somewhat, while 26% disagreed somewhat, and 14% disagreed strongly.  Methodist and Lutheran ministers were more likely than average to agree with this statement, while Southern Baptists were less likely than average to have this perspective. 

 

Ministers were really split over the statement, “Like it or not, the traditional view of family (husband, wife, and children) no longer really exists in American society.”  About half agreed (10% strongly, 37% somewhat), while the rest disagreed (26% strongly, 27% somewhat).  Methodists were more likely than average to agree, while Baptists (both Southern Baptist and those from other Baptist denominations) were less likely than average to agree.

 

No matter what pastors thought of the current family situation in the U.S., the vast majority agreed with the statement, “No matter how society defines family, churches need to promote a traditional view of family (husband, wife, and children).”  Seventy-one percent agreed strongly with this, and another 16% agreed somewhat.  Five percent disagreed somewhat, and 8% disagreed strongly.  This is one area in which members of the NAE and the NCC did not share the same perspective:  strong agreement came from 79% of National Association of Evangelicals members, but just 40% of National Council of Churches members.  Baptists and Pentecostals had particularly strong feelings on this issue, while Methodists and Lutherans were much less vocal (although a majority of both groups agreed with the statement).

 

Ron Sellers, president of Grey Matter Research, noted that there was no consensus on what constitutes the strongest threats to the family in America.  “The level of threat each issue represented often differed from region to region, and no threat was named among the top three by even half of all pastors,” Sellers pointed out.  “Obviously the threats to families differ considerably from one community to the next.  An upscale suburban community may be threatened most by materialism or latch-key kids, while a rural area may have real problems with poverty or alcoholism.  This could make any nationwide or large-scale initiatives to deal with these problems a challenge, or at least lead to very spotty success.”

 

Sellers also emphasized that although there was a fair amount of agreement among different types of ministers regarding what constitutes a threat to families in their communities, there would likely be different perspectives on how churches should deal with those threats.  “Take the issue of children without a stay-at-home parent.  Should churches work to encourage one parent to stay home to take care of young children?  Or should they accept the situation and try to provide support to families with two working parents?  Pastors may agree this is a threat to family health, but they may have very different ways of addressing these issues.”

 

Study Details:

The study was conducted by Grey Matter Research (formerly Ellison Research), a marketing research company located in Phoenix, Arizona.  The sample of 695 Protestant ministers included only those who are actively leading churches.  The study’s total sample is accurate to within ±3.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level with a 50 percent response distribution.  

 

The study was conducted in all 50 states, using a representative sample of pastors from all Protestant denominations.  Respondents’ geography, church size, and denomination were carefully tracked to ensure appropriate representation and accuracy.

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What do you believe are the three strongest threats to families in your community?  (By denomination)

Do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements (among all Protestant clergy)…

Do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements (% agreeing strongly with each statement)…

 

Threats

All Pastors

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

All Others

Divorce

43%

53%

40%

35%

44%

50%

42%

Negative influences from the media

38

38

43

34

34

36

39

Materialism

36

38

36

35

44

19

40

Absentee fathers

24

29

26

16

4

32

24

No stay-at-home parent/latch-key kids

22

23

22

20

11

23

24

Co-habitation before marriage

18

21

24

18

17

19

14

Pornography

17

21

20

11

7

21

17

Morality not taught in schools

14

14

18

8

2

24

11

Poor economy/poverty/unemployment

13

5

10

22

20

9

14

Parental alcohol use/abuse

12

7

7

22

21

6

15

Parental drug use/abuse

11

7

7

23

6

10

11

Drug use/abuse among teens/kids

8

6

6

7

12

13

7

Teen sexual involvement/activity

8

7

10

6

13

13

6

Alcohol use/abuse among teens/kids

6

6

4

5

15

5

6

Adultery

5

3

6

8

5

5

5

Poor schools/quality of education

4

3

4

7

9

1

3

Teen pregnancy

2

1

1

3

--

8

1

Sexual abuse/sexual predators

1

--

--

3

4

--

2

Expense of child care

1

--

2

--

2

--

2

Other issues

12

12

14

14

20

5

13

Threats

Northeast

Midwest

South

West

Divorce

44%

43%

47%

39%

Negative influences from the media

38

34

38

44

Materialism

28

39

34

38

Absentee fathers

20

21

34

17

No stay-at-home parent/latch-key kids

25

23

22

19

Co-habitation before marriage

11

31

15

12

Pornography

18

18

13

21

Morality not taught in schools

20

9

16

14

Poor economy/poverty/unemployment

19

12

12

13

Parental alcohol use/abuse

12

11

6

23

Parental drug use/abuse

10

7

11

15

Drug use/abuse among teens/kids

8

6

8

8

Teen sexual involvement/activity

9

11

9

4

Alcohol use/abuse among teens/kids

4

6

5

7

Adultery

5

4

7

5

Poor schools/quality of education

8

3

4

3

Teen pregnancy

7

1

2

--

Sexual abuse/sexual predators

2

2

1

1

Expense of child care

2

1

1

1

Other issues

12

15

9

15

 

Statement

Agree

Strongly 

Agree

Somewhat

Disagree

Somewhat

Disagree

Strongly

No matter how society defines family, churches

   need to promote a traditional view of family

 

71%

 

16%

 

5%

 

8%

Churches tend to focus so much on “traditional” families

   that they do not serve important groups such as singles,

   childless couples, or single parents appropriately

 

 

12

 

 

48

 

 

26

 

 

14

Like it or not, the traditional view of family no

   longer really exists in American society

 

10

 

37

 

27

 

26

 

Threats

All Pastors

Southern Baptist

Other Baptist

 

Methodist

 

Lutheran

 

Pentecostal

All Others

No matter how society defines

   family, churches need to promote

   a traditional view of family

 

 

84%

 

 

92%

 

 

39%

 

 

40%

 

 

83%

 

 

67%

 

 

42%

Churches tend to focus so much on

   “traditional” families that they do not

   serve important groups such as

   singles, childless couples, or

   single parents appropriately

 

 

 

 

6

 

 

 

 

10

 

 

 

 

22

 

 

 

 

24

 

 

 

 

4

 

 

 

 

12

 

 

 

 

39

Like it or not, the traditional view of family

   no longer really exists in American society

 

9

 

11

 

15

 

4

 

11

 

10

 

40