By Charles Scudder The Dallas Morning News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) According to new data released by Pew Research Center, women around the globe are more likely to be religious than men, especially among Christians. Worldwide, 83 percent of women identify with a faith group, compared with 80 percent of men, that's 97 million more women than men who have religious affiliation. So what does this mean for woman as leaders in various faith organizations? Hopefully, more women in leadership.
The Dallas Morning News
Sarah Kesinger met her first husband in the youth group at her Methodist church. When they married, his father, a minister, presided over the ceremony. Going to church was always important to her, and she assumed it was important to him, too.
But when he came back from a tour of duty in Iraq, Kesinger says her husband's faith had changed dramatically.
"He felt like Christianity and Christ was shoved down his throat as a child," Kesinger, who lives in Pflugerville, Texas, said.
The couple divorced in early 2015, and Kesinger says their differences in belief were a big factor. She says she's a very emotional person, and going to church on Sunday helps her feel spiritually uplifted during the week.
According to new data released by Pew Research Center, women around the globe are more likely to be religious than men, especially among Christians. Worldwide, 83 percent of women identify with a faith group, compared with 80 percent of men, that's 97 million more women than men who have religious affiliation.
In the United States, which boasts the world's largest Christian population, religious commitment is "exceptionally high" compared with other economically advanced countries and that gender gap is "consistently wider" than its peers.
There is a 17 percentage-point gap between American men and women when it comes to daily prayer (64 percent of women and 47 percent of men pray daily), compared with only a 9-point gap in the United Kingdom and a 2-point gap in Canada. Even women who are religiously unaffiliated, including in the United States, pray at higher rates than unaffiliated men.
The biggest exceptions to the gender gap, according to Pew, were when cultural norms prioritize male participation, like Orthodox Judaism and Islam. Yet researchers also point out the subtle irony in how a majority of religious leaders and icons, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Siddhartha Gautama, are male.
Religious groups recognize this gap constitutes a crisis of identity for many congregations, and are trying new ways to get men into pews.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas, for example, has been expanding new branches of specialty churches. Cowboy churches, country churches, biker churches, oil patch churches, outdoor life churches and multihousing churches in trailer parks and other public spaces have all become popular among unchurched men, says Charles Higgs of the Texas Baptists.
"It has a lot to do with atmosphere," Higgs said. "We've lowered some barriers."
Higgs said the biggest concern of these churches is meeting men where they are. Where women have "kept the doors open" at traditional church services, men may not like the rigid structure or passing of an offering plate.
At cowboy churches, for example, men show up in jeans, listen to country gospel music, get up and grab coffee when they want to and feel more comfortable.
"If a person comes to church and has been unchurched, they have a need there," Higgs said. "The church needs to adjust their thermostat and meet the deepest needs of men."
There is an even wider gender gap in how men and women act on their beliefs. Pew reports that on average, the number of women who attend weekly services is about 8 percentage points higher than men.
Kesinger's first marriage may have mirrored that gender gap, but she says her new husband is much more interested in going to church with the family. Now her son regularly attends Sunday school, and went to his first Palm Sunday service earlier this month.
"It was really awesome for me as a parent to see him wave palm branches and be a part of it," Kesinger said. "We went as a family."