The place of faith in the health of the family

The Institute of Family Studies[1] regularly monitors the health of the family and explores the relationship between the wellbeing of children and the quality of family life in all major regions of the world. The World Family Map Report 2019[2] explored the place of faith in the health of the family. 

This survey of nearly 10,000 people in 11 countries, including Australia, found that faith is “a force for good” in increasing levels of satisfaction in marriages and family life.  

This is a pivotal moment for churches to recognise that the Christian faith is of great benefit in supporting marriages and family life.  Children who are raised in stable marriages are more likely to have better mental health outcomes.  This is an opportunity for the local church to “put effort into supporting family relationships to be stable, safe and nurturing.”[3] 

Here are some snapshots results from the latest World Family Map:

The Christian faith helps marriages.  Couples who share the Christian faith enjoy higher levels of relationship quality and sexual satisfaction compared to couples in secular or less religious relationships. Regular church attendance is good for couples and they are more likely to report higher levels of relationship quality and sexual satisfaction.

The Christian faith provide couples with the opportunity to share together in rituals or habits such as going to church and praying together.  These may help couples deal with stressful life events, have hope, and provide an opportunity to change destructive patterns of behaviour.

Regular church attendance is good for marriages.  Couples who attend church are more likely to place a high value on commitment.  The Christian faith places a strong emphasis on love, forgiveness, respectful behaviour and putting the needs of others above one’s own.  These are contributing towards the higher satisfaction levels reported in this study.

Churches provide networks that can support couples especially in times of trouble.  Being part of a church community provides couples with the opportunity to form supportive friendships – this support network is helping couples report high levels of relationship satisfaction.

“The family that prays together, stays together.”  Prayer is an activity that strengthens the bonds between couples and families.  Let’s encourage our couples and families to build the habit of praying together and making this a part of normal family life.  This can become part of some other normal habit or ritual such as a meal together – breakfast or dinner or the going to bed routine.  Use it as part of being joyful together, speaking words of love and encouragement.  This simple habit is good for marriages and it is good for our children.   

Marriage is good for our children.  Children raised in stable families do better in life.  Stability and nurture support the mental health of children.  Children born to married parents are more likely to have a stable upbringing.[4]

Stable families are also well placed to help churches build community for those who are single, who are lonely and disconnected.[5]

However, when it comes to domestic violence and infidelity, this report showed that faith provides no advantage.  Religion is not protective for the couples who took part in this sample.[6]  Men who were highly religious were not significantly less likely to engage in violence against their partners, or less likely to commit adultery than men who have no religious faith. [7]  This is an opportunity for churches to address relationship destroying behaviour – in particular violence.


[1] https://ifstudies.org/research/reports

[2] Ties that bind: is faith a global force for good or ill in the family?

[3] See Patrick Parkinson in a recent lecture about family and marriage and faith at New College in September 2020. Transcript

Video: See a summary of his three lectures in “After Christendom: How should we then live?” by Patrick Parkinson, (2020) 59 Case 4 at 8

[4] See Chapter 2 of the World Family Map.  At page 20.  2

[5] Parkinson, ibid, at 9.  “A father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5-6

[6] See Chapter 3 of the World Family Map beginning at page 30. 

[7] Parkinson, 8.

Have you seen Tim & Myhn in Session 5 of Building a Safe & Strong Marriage? Watch their powerful story of marriage conflict, determination and resolution in full here.

Building a Safe & Strong Marriage is the culmination of Keith & Sarah Condie’s work of over 15 years of encouraging couples and helping them to work on their marriages. Here’s what others have to say about this marriage course:

Building a Safe & Strong Marriage encourages self-awareness in relationships, the key to any change. I particularly appreciate the combination of sensitivity and humour, which helps create space for thinking about even the most challenging topics in relationships. The course is careful and enriching and brings together biblical content with research on healthy relationships. It will be challenging but fruitful for any participant.”

Lauren Errington, Mental Health Social Worker and Family Therapist

 

“The Building a Strong & Safe Marriage course is a well-crafted, engaging and easy to use resource. It reflects the decades of experience that Keith Condie has as a theological lecturer at Moore College, and the many years of experience that Sarah Condie has as a pastoral care worker in churches. We have used this with couples from our church and found it to be a blessing to those who participated. The video looks just gorgeous, and the high production values make it an attractive and easy to use tool. We will definitely be using it again!”

Edward and Jane Vaughan, St John’s Darlinghurst

marriage course dvd and books

What does Building a Safe & Strong Marriage look like?

In this marriage course, there are five sessions each lasting about two hours.  During the sessions you’ll watch some video content from us, Keith and Sarah, hear from couples who have also taken the course, watch interviews with couples with a range of experiences and pause for reflection and thoughtful exercises to do as a couple or on your own.

What do you cover in the marriage course?

We look at God’s design for marriage – what does the Bible say about marriage; research on what makes a marriage work; what damages our connectedness in marriage – the problem of shame, hiding and blame; and the warning signs that a marriage is in trouble.

“little things every day”

We then help couples with building the positives.  We have a saying “little things every day” and we explore how couples can work on their friendship, how they communicate, their sexual relationship and finally we look at the spiritual dimension they share. Finally, we provide couples with some tools in managing conflict gently.

Watch this video to give you a taste of the course:

You might say to me “my marriage is going fine, I don’t need to go to a marriage course!”

I’d like to ask you to think about a car for a moment.  They all need to be filled up with petrol regularly and then every so often, they need “a grease and oil change”.  Marriages are a bit like cars.  You can take them for granted, but if you don’t put petrol in the tank and they never get that grease and oil change, they won’t work.  You will turn that ignition key and nothing happens.  If one in three marriages in Australia end in divorce, then I would like to suggest that all marriages could do with a bit of help and an investment of time and space.

Building a Safe & Strong Marriage will benefit all couples. Believe it or not, each time that we have presented this course, it has helped Keith and I reconnect, talk about some issue that needs to be discussed, or just helped us not take each other for granted.  It is so easy to forget to say thank you….

it has helped Keith and I reconnect

Think of it like a date night!  Set aside one night a week for 5 weeks, or a weekend, to take the course.  Whether you are cruising along happily or feeling a little stressed and disconnected, the course content is designed to enhance your marriage, enabling you to understand its strength and weakness and how you can improve it.

My name is Sarah and my husband Keith and I are delighted to launch our Building a Safe & Strong Marriage Course.

Keith and I have been married for thirty-seven years and we wish that a course like this had been available to us in our early years of marriage.  It is our hope and prayer that Building a Safe & Strong Marriage will help many other couples not fall into some of the unhelpful patterns of relating that we did.

Keith & Sarah wedding photo and bushwalking photo

Keith and I on our wedding day, and bushwalking on the South Coast.

 

This course is based on marriage enrichment courses we have run for over fifteen years.  The content has developed over time in response to feedback and new insights.

In the course, we draw upon wisdom from two sources – the Bible and research into marriage.  We have found a remarkable similarity between the two.  Much of what the research affirms about healthy and happy marriages is consistent with the principles outlined in the Bible.  We believe that this course will benefit any marriage, even if you don’t share our faith commitment.

We have developed this resource as we believe that strong, healthy marriages leave a wonderful legacy, benefiting children, church communities and the wider society.