Tami Heim, president of Christian Leadership Alliance, tweeted out a Barna survey that caught my eye: Christian Women Today: Part 2 – A Look at Women’s Lifestyles, Priorities, and Time Commitments. (This page links to part 2 of a 4 part series on the survey results.)
Specifically, I was interested in exploring women’s view on faith and work – whether it be paid or volunteer, in the office, the home, or the community. Do women experience the same “silo effect” in which what they do Monday – Saturday feels basically separate from their faith?
Like some surveys, this one prompted more questions for me than it provides answers. But some of the results are worth reviewing and discussing:
- Christian women hold high views of their spiritual maturity, yet faith is not their highest priority in life.
Nearly three quarters of Christian women say they are mature in their faith (73%) and most are satisfied (78%) with their spiritual development.
However, when asked about their top priorities in life, family (53%) ranked much higher than faith (16%). Other priorities included health (9%), career performance (5%), and a comfortable lifestyle (5%).
- Christian women find their identity mainly in their role as a parent, which drives their goal-setting as well. Faith-related goals and finding their identity in Christ are not as important.
62 percent of women said they find their identity in their role as a mother or parent. In second place was faith: only 13% of women said their most important role in life was as a follower of Christ. The third highest ranked role was as a wife (11%).
When it comes to chief goals in life, women hold more diverse views. Family-related goals are still number one. 36 percent said raising their children well was their highest goal; 26 percent said that faith-related goals were most important. Among other choices, 5 percent said their career was their chief goal and only 2 percent said improving their marriage was tops.
The president of the Barna Group, David Kinnaman, is asking some good questions about his group’s survey results:
Some may interpret this research as a false choice: can women be asked to choose between their role as a parent and that of their faith?
It may be a false choice, but it’s what many Christians have been taught: practicing your faith as a follower of Christ is something you do at church, Bible studies, and devotional times but what you do with the rest of your week is less important. That’s simply not true.
My colleague Hugh Whelchel warns that separating your faith from your work can lead to one of two things:
We have taken our understanding of work to two extremes. We have taken work, a good thing that God has given us, and turned it into an idol that we worship in place of God. From the worship of our jobs we seek approval, comfort and security…
The other extreme is seen in those who aren’t really passionate about or interested in their work. They see it only as a means to an end, but a much different end. These are the people that are only working for a paycheck. They put in the minimal effort, and see little connection between what they do at work and the rest of their lives.
If you’re like me, you probably have experienced both extremes and realized, “something is wrong with this picture.”
The truth about our work is that it has deep spiritual significance in light of God’s story throughout history. In fact, it is in our Monday through Saturday work, perhaps even more so than on Sundays, in which God desires us to know, experience, and proclaim his kingdom.
Whatever Christian women are called to spend most of their week doing – raising children, working in an office, caring for others, and often doing all three – that work has value and meaning to God. It is no less important than their time in devotions, volunteering at church, or in worship. It’s an integral part of their faith – not separate.
In his discussion on the Cultural Mandate, Hugh has pointed out the real spiritual purpose in our jobs: Scripture teaches that it is through God’s people and our work that Christ’s kingship is made evident here on earth. Author Richard Pratt in Designed for Dignity describes how this works:
The Great King has summoned each of us into his throne room. Take this portion of my kingdom, he says, I am making you my steward over your office, your workbench, your kitchen stove. Put your heart into mastering this part of my world. Get it in order; unearth its treasures; do all you can with it. Then everyone will see what a glorious King I am.
May Christian women and men find real freedom in this truth. Their work doesn’t have to become an idol, nor should it be taken lightly. It’s the very tool God has given us to be salt and light, to make a difference in the world for him, his glory, and the common good.
What are your thoughts on the Barna Group’s survey?