Church Hurt: Millions of Women Have Left, but Researcher Says These Benefits Are Good Reasons to Return
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Faith is on the decline in America, especially among women. Over the last decade, millions of women have left the church.
In her book, Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church and the Church Needs Women, author and freelance journalist Ericka Andersen says 16 million women have walked away from the church in the last 10 years. But she says many who have departed still consider themselves Christian. She encourages those who have been hurt or disillusioned to reconsider what the church has to offer.
"The phrase that I like to use a lot is, 'the church of your past doesn't have to be the church of your future,'" Andersen said during an appearance on CBN's PrayerLink.
While she admits the church is far from perfect, Andersen is inviting women to rediscover joy and purpose in attending church service.
"After seeing some data about how many women were leaving church and showing that women were leaving church at a much faster rate than men in the past 10 years specifically, I knew there was a message that they needed to hear because so many of those women, they're not turning away from God. But they do need an invitation back to faith community," Andersen explained.
According to a 2019 Pew Research study, women have grown noticeably less religious over the last decade. The share of "nones" among women has risen by 10 percent since 2009. And the share of women who identify as Christian has fallen from 80% to 69% over that same period.
Reasons for Leaving
Issues like #ChurchToo involving sexual abuse scandals in the church have played somewhat of a role in the decline.
A recent article in Relevant Magazine points out that a growing number of single women are leaving over that issue.
"By far the biggest factor propelling women out of the church is sex. The #ChurchToo movement attested to just how damaging irresponsible handling of the church's messages of sexual purity can be for some women," the article says.
While conducting extensive research, Andersen also discovered that millions of other women have left for a variety of reasons.
"One of the number one reasons is overwhelmed, stress, busyness which you might immediately conclude, oh maybe it's deconstruction or maybe it's people de-converting. But the truth is that most women that are leaving the church, they are not de-converting, they're not deconstructing, they still value their relationship with God," she explained. "Many of them are looking for a little bit of guidance, a friend to walk with them."
Benefits of Church Life
Andersen believes that type of guidance is found in healthy faith communities that are beneficial for women and their families.
"All kinds of benefits happen for you and your family including better rates of mental health, better relationships, better even physical health. And then your children are also growing up in this really firm faith foundation where they can thrive and are less anxious and less depressed and go into adulthood feeling confident about who they are and where they are in the world," Andersen said.
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