The topic of differences between men and women when it comes to commitment to faith is not a new discussion. However, a new study released by Pew Forum shows some interesting and staggering trends when it comes to this subject.
The study was conducted in the U.S. and around the world to measure how men and women differ when it comes to faith and religion. The measurements varied slightly based on the country where they were asked, but can be boiled down to the following: religious affiliation, attendance at a religious service, daily prayer and whether or not religion was important to them.
In almost every country and religion, with a few exceptions, women emerged as more faithful when it comes to faith and religion around the world. They are also less likely to identify as nonreligious or “nones.”
In the U.S. for instance, 60 percent of women stated that religion was more important to them, compared to 47 percent of men who took the survey. Women were also more likely to pray every day (64 percent vs. 47 percent). Even in weekly attendance of religious services, 40 percent of women attend versus 32 percent of men.
These numbers may not seem staggering or even surprising. However, in an age where the conversation both in and out of the church is increasingly focused on gender gaps in the workplace and in church leadership, it is important to examine this kind of data and consider what it means for the church.
As Pew notes, in the U.S. many churches have become so concerned with the lack of men in their churches that they change decor, services and worship times to draw more men into a church.
Outside of the U.S. the numbers are just as staggering. An estimated 83.4 percent of women globally identify as being religious compared to 79.9 percent of men. On the surface, the differentiation in percentage points doesn’t seem to be significant. However, the 3.5 percent gap represents an estimated 97 million women who identify as religious.
So what do the numbers look like for Christians? The margins are substantial: More Christian women pray, attend church services and say that their faith is important to them than Christian men, with the average gap per question sitting around 10 percentage points.
This data also corresponds with growing trends around the world of religious women becoming the most targeted group for religious persecution. Churches are consistently targeted in bombings and raids. Christian women are often kidnapped, made sex slaves, raped repeatedly and killed.
The UN Population Fund estimates that gender-based violence impacts 1 in 3 women around the world. They also note that while many religious groups persecute, the intensity of violence toward Christian women comes from Muslim countries, not just in the Middle East, but in Africa and Asia as well.
These stories, coupled with the newest data from Pew Research Center, signifies troubling trends ahead. For the church both in the U.S. and around the world, it is now more than just opening up opportunities for women in the church. And it is more than brainstorming creative ways to get men into church seats. It is now about finding ways to protect, aid and serve those among us who are the most vulnerable and persecuted.