Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Updated: Christian Millennials Delaying Marriage


(Earlier errors have been corrected): October is Missions Month at our church, and last weekend a late 20's to 30-something lady spoke about her work with CRU (Campus Crusade for Christ). She grew up in our church and began working for the organization while attending Kent State University, after speaking with ministry representatives at a missions table during orientation week.

She seemed like such a wonderful, kind, sweet, sincere person, completely sold out to Christ and the Great Commission. We were all inspired by her work with young, part-time staffers across various Ohio universities. Part-time work with CRU is an option for students who want to complete their education, but don't want to wait until after graduation to begin working in missions. My boys, especially, were very intrigued by this idea.

My post today is not really about missions, however. I'm ashamed to say that by the end of her talk, I wondered why her life story hadn't included marriage and kids yet.

Yes, I know. What's wrong with me? Didn't Paul say it was better not to marry, if one had the gift of singleness...so one could dedicate an entire life to full-time service to Christ? A marriage presumably encumbers workers for Christ, so everyone not harboring a burning desire to couple would do better to stay single, while laboring hard for the gospel.

And isn't that what this lovely lady was doing? So...what's my problem?

Only that fewer millennials are marrying and if the trend continues, the church is in trouble. Heck, we're already in trouble: those who aren't marrying in their twenties or thirties are still having sex.   A big part of following Christ is loving holiness. When we get over holiness, the church looks like the rest of the world.

Maybe they're not advertising it, but the majority of evangelical young people have given up on virginity. It's acceptable to love Christ, live for Christ...even labor for Christ, all while making up one's own rules about sexuality.

In biblical times youth married early--while barely out of puberty in most cases. There wasn't much time to be tempted by sexual sin, much less to engage in it. The individual didn't count for much during an era when people went directly from belonging to family, to creating a family.

As a mother to both boys and girls, I want to know what's behind today's trends, and ascertain what I can do to prepare my children for both godly marriage and godly singleness--whichever God has for them.

During my research I encountered a Faithstreet.com article by a 24-year-old, career-driven Christian girl who shared five reasons she thinks she and her girl friends are not marrying as early as other generations. Before delving into her points, she shares some statistics:

According to the Pew Research Center, only 26 percent of Millennials, those born roughly between 1981 and 1996, are married. This is a decrease from previous generations: by the time they were in the current Millennial age range (18-33), 36 percent of Generation Xers, 48 percent of Baby Boomers, and 65 percent of the Silent Generation were married.
Millennials’ median marriage age is also the highest of any group in modern history — 29 for men and 27 for women. Though most unmarried Millennials (69 percent) say they’d like to marry, they’re not in a hurry.
Do these statistics surprise us? Don't we all know at least one or two single Christian women (or men) who aren't married yet, for reasons we can't fathom? The young lady also shares what her research uncovered about the sexuality of the unmarrieds:
The majority (77 percent) of evangelical Millennials agree that sex outside of marriage is morally wrong. But that hasn’t stopped most of them from doing it. In fact, 80 percent of unmarried Millennials who self-identify as evangelicals have had sex, according to a study from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
Of that 80 percent, 64 percent reported having sex in the last year, and 42 percent say they are currently in a sexual relationship.
Even using a stricter definition of “evangelical,” a study by the National Association of Evangelicals found that 44 percent of evangelical Millennials had premarital sex. One Gospel Coalition blog said sex outside of marriage is the Millennial generation’s acceptable sin.
Are you with me on this? Doesn't it seem that the majority of these unmarrieds do not have the gift of singleness? They're not delaying marriage because their love for Christ burns stronger than all else.

What about the secular world? Is the Christian world just following societal trends? 

Well, in the secular world something else is going on, but there is common ground between the two groups. First, in the secular world feminism has led young women to believe that men are expendable. A woman doesn't need a man for anything...especially now that bisexuality is a fad. What's up with this "fluid sexuality" thing? Are we in the end times or what?

Both the secular and non-secular single women are career-driven. Both are having sex. Both find singleness attractive. 

On some level singleness is attractive: the idea of living for oneself, coming and going as it pleases you; hanging out with friends while spending money on food and vacations and clothes; or staying in to be alone to enjoy books or other hobbies; cleaning and cooking as it pleases you.

Sounds pretty free and easy, doesn't it? 

While these women may at times be lonely, they're decidedly not miserable. Their freedom, along with the like-minded company they keep, make their lives more than tolerable.

Here are five reasons millennial Christian women are staying single, according to our 24-year-old Faith Street author: 

1.We're driven by our careers.

2. True love isn't waiting. (The pre-marital sex thing).

3. Men are acting like boys. (We knew that was coming).

4. Christians don't know how to date. (We're awkward about it; we believe it's a precursor to marriage, which creates too much pressure.)

5. Singleness is attractive. (For this, she gives reasons similar to mine above.)

Let's talk a little about the "men are acting like boys" thing. 

The number of men in their 20's and 30's who spend hours playing video games--having started the addiction by middle school or high school--is astounding, for one thing. But she lists other reasons too, along with research:
Kevin DeYoung, author of Just Do Something, says that a number of commentators, Christians included, have noticed a trend in Millennial men — they aren’t growing up. The common question he hears from young Christian women around the country: “Where have all the marriageable men gone?”
DeYoung contends: “The Christian men that are ‘good guys’ could use a little — what’s the word I’m looking for — ambition.” I heard a similar response when I asked a few unmarried Christian guys in their early twenties why marriage is being delayed. They said guys now tend to be less forward about their intentions, made easier by the ability to hide behind indirect forms of communication (think text messages, email, Facebook).
For a generation where its commonplace to play Madden for hours on end, live at home well into adulthood and not be able to maintain a savings account, marriage might take a backseat because growing up has, too.
I researched further, despite the compelling reasons listed by this young single woman. As a mother to boys, I wanted to hear the other side, too.

And boy was there another side! I found this gem of an article: 9 Reasons Why Christian Single Ladies Can't Find Their Boaz, David, or Joseph.

Tobi Atte lists the following excellent reasons, all of which he fleshes out quite well. I can only quote the basics here. I urge you to read his excellent article in its entirety, whether you're married yourself, single, and/or a mother. His reasons are quite convicting for all women:

1. Many Christian ladies want a man that “knows where he is going”… but God’s men usually don’t have a clue: Think about that for a moment. Think through the Bible…all the great men that had relationships with God and who he used and blessed….they usually didn’t have a clue about where they were going and (here is the even crazier part) even if they had a clue, their lives for a long time did not reflect that great place God said he was taking them.

2. Many ladies approach relationships from the perspective of “Low Risk, High Reward”: Meaning, they want to get the absolute best man with the least amount of risk. (And I’m not just talking about finances here)They don’t want to put themselves out there at all.

They want the man to take ALL the risks…to be utterly convinced he wants to be with them before they open up about who they really are. You know who you are…You act like YOU are the ONLY prize in the equation. He doesn’t know anything about your background but you turned into a private investigator to make sure he is good enough for you. You are financially irresponsible and an impulsive spender, you’re spending insane percentages of your income on your hair, shoes, bags, and your “package” but you want a man who knows how to make and keep money. You have not grown your faith or prayer life to where it needs to be but you want a demon chasing, tongue speaking, Bible spitting warrior of a husband…because “he is the leader of the home”.
3. Many ladies forget that good Christian men look for women who share similar non-romantic, non-spiritual values: Sure he should be romantic and sure he must share those spiritual values but eerrmmm ladies…these Christian brothers are looking for those other character traits as well that speak to the OPERATION of your possible lives together. Dependability, thriftiness, work ethic, time management, hard work, follow-through and so on.
4. Many ladies pre-qualify their leads: This is one of the most CRITICAL reasons. In fact, there is a powerful 2 part series on just that here http://ijustmetme.com/2014/05/dont-pre-qualify-your-lead/
5. Good Christian men know their worth too and don’t want to settle either: Yea ladies…men are understanding their worth a bit more too. Christian men are getting more and more comfortable attending relationship seminars and getting information about seeking God’s face for a wife. They are realizing how powerful of an impact a wife has on the outcome of their lives and ministry, and they are spending more time trying to see what is beneath the surface. They know that a woman can make or break everything. They realize that a woman’s desires can accelerate him towards purpose or derail him.

They are praying more and they are realizing that while you still remain a prize, they too are precious in God’s eyes and want to do right by him. They are realizing that a wife can make or break a man.

Yes they are praying for a Ruth but they are also praying against Delilah as well.

6. Many Christian ladies have no testimony with men:
7. Many Christian women want a Proverbs 31 Man:
8. Many Christian ladies want to be married but they are not truly ready to be led:
9. Many young married Christian women are painting a fairytale picture of marriage to their single ladies:

And if this article isn't fantastic enough, this same author shares an article about the flip side: 11 Reasons Why Single Christian Men Can't Find Their Ruth, Esther, or Mary. This article is equally compelling and convicting for both single and married men.

So, what did I decide to do with my research? Share it with you, and with my children during the next 3 devotional nights. Our family will go over all the reasons both authors gave, and discuss each point, with the goal of growing both boys and girls who are ready for the most glorious marriages imaginable...as well as a godly singleness, should God have that for them.

Side note: I married 16 years ago, at the age of 33. The reasons I married late had everything to do with growing up in a dysfunctional family; they were not part of a societal trend, by any means. However, I did enjoy my career...until I burned out on classroom discipline problems in my 10th year of teaching. I know how incredibly blessed I was to have a career to help me endure singleness, and how blessed I was that God kept me single until two years after I came to know Jesus as my Savior. I married a Christian, thank the Lord.

A couple of the reasons I married my husband were rooted in dysfunctional, even at 33, but God has redeemed that. My marriage is hard but we're both led by the Holy Spirit, and we realize our marriage has a purpose in God's Kingdom, and that it's bigger and more important than both of us. It's a mission and a race that we will finish, for the glory of God. 

Love seemed nearly perfect for the first seven years, then we woke up. That is something every young person needs to understand. It doesn't stay perfect, and for some people it never felt anything close to perfect. We have to expect to wake up from our honeymoon stupor--wake up more than ready to think of it as a race and a mission that is bigger than ourselves. It isn't about what we deserve, or what our partner deserves. It's about bringing God the most glory.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think having a loving, kind marriage is one of the best ways I can teach my children to value both the opposite sex and marriage itself. It is a beautiful thing and more than I ever hoped for, or ever expected! God knew what He was doing when He brought us two together - and THAT is what I want to instil into my children, more than anything: trust God. I also would add that following Christ is never easy and involves making some really tough choices and that sometimes we make the wrong choices, or we make the right choices for the wrong reasons and we're basically very good at messing everything up but that God is so loving and merciful that if we repent and turn to Him He makes beauty from brokenness - and that that is nothing short of miraculous.

Very complex area altogether, as I've discovered now that my two oldest are in puberty. Very complex. Prayer is very important, I think.