Stay-At-Home Dad: The family that prays together
By Howard A. Ludwig May 17, 2012 11:06AM
Updated: June 29, 2012 8:40AM
I remember making my confirmation in the Catholic Church. As the congregation applauded, I thought, “I can’t wait until I’m old enough to never have to go to church again.”
Church is boring to a teen. And having to wake up early on a Sunday morning doesn’t help. As far as I was concerned, the best part of the Mass was checking out the parade of well-dressed teenage girls as they walked up for Communion.
Nearly two decades later, I’m a fairly regular churchgoer — and it has nothing to do with checking out babes.
Attending 9 a.m. Mass on Sunday has become part of our routine. Most of our neighborhood friends we’ve met either through church or the adjoining Catholic school. My two sons have play dates at their homes, and they are invited to our house for birthday parties and barbecues.
The church seems to be what pulls it all together. And it makes Sunday Mass a much different experience than when I was a disassociated teen. I was reflecting on this change last week, and I found myself asking, “Does having kids make you more likely to go to church?”
I looked at some research and made several phone calls looking for an answer. And while it seems that my experience isn’t uncommon, I also learned that would-be parents are less likely to have a religious foundation than ever before.
As a result, the overall numbers may be down. But young adults still tend to return to the church once children arrive, said Dr. Christian Smith, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Notre Dame.
“Getting married and having children is a very strong life-course transition that tends to bring people back to the religion in which they were raised or to the one of the spouse who is most invested,” Smith said.
He went on to say that twenty-somethings tend to not feel much need for religion. But when they settle down and have children, suddenly faith and church become an important source of support, stability and often education.
The Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life conducts surveys, demographic analysis and other social science research on religion in the U.S. and around the world. In 2010, their researchers looked at Americans born after 1980 and who began to come of age around the year 2000.
The report, titled “Religion Among the Millennials,” found that 1 in 4 members of this group are unaffiliated with any particular faith. This is an increase from Generation X, and Millennials are twice as unaffiliated as Baby Boomers were as young adults.
Millennials are now becoming parents. While fewer of them have religious ties than ever before, most new parents seek some sort of “formative community,” said Mark Laboe, associate vice president of University Ministry at DePaul University.
That community may be the Catholic Church, but for many young people committing to such a large institution is a foreign concept.
In addition to its daunting size, Millennials are often at odds with the church’s stance on birth control, homosexuality and/or abortion, Laboe said.
“I think we live in an iPod generation, where you get to pick and choose what you like. You don’t buy the whole album anymore, you buy the single,” Laboe said.
I bought the whole album years ago while begrudgingly sitting in a church pew. I may not have listened to it very much in my late teens and early twenties. But I’m glad to have it in my collection today.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notebook for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.