The choice for many Christian women: singleness or marry a non-Christian
Middle class Christian women are increasingly faced with the choice of marrying someone who does not share their beliefs or staying single, according to new research.
Christian women, however attractive and successful, must be prepared to go through life without finding a partner who shares their Christian beliefs, the report says.
The survey of more than 7,200 adults, carried out by YouGov last September and conceived by Dr David Pullinger of singleChristians.co.uk, is the first detailed quantitative research into the relationship between marital status and church attendance.
While just eight per cent of single people in Britain regularly attend a place of worship, single women from the ABC1 social groupings make up the greatest proportion. More than a fifth of these single women attend at least once a year, compared to just 13 per cent of men from the same social groups and men and women from the C2DE groups.
Because ABC1 women are also the most numerous as a group in society, this means there are a large number of unpartnered women with the same social status in churches. Overall, half a million more women than men regularly attend a place of Christian worship every month in Britain.
"We've known it, anecdotally, for a long time but this new survey proves it at last," said David Pullinger, co-founder of singlechristians.co.uk, a new website that supports single people in the Church. "Traditionally, churches have been very successful supporting marriage but this data shows married couples are already over-represented in churches.
"What about single people? What about those of other marital status? Thousands of Christian women in particular must choose between marrying somebody who doesn't share their beliefs or staying single. They deserve far greater respect and understanding from church leaders and fellow worshippers."
While 47 per cent of GB adults are married, married people make up 60 per cent of those who regularly attend church at least once a month. Churches are relatively successful in catering for married people, especially those aged 30 to 44 years with children, but fail to reach other groups including singles.
Professor Linda Woodhead of Lancaster University said: "This important research shows how the churches seem to cater much better for married than single people, particularly single men. As singleness grows in society, this is something which needs urgently to be addressed."
Jackie Elton, founder of online dating site Christian Connection, said local churches need to encourage single women much more and also work to attract single men of all ages, not just those under 35.
"There is little sign of church leaders taking on this issue," said Ms Elton, who co-founded singlechristians.co.uk with David Pullinger. "Local churches are letting down single people, both those who attend and those who don't. The number of single people in society is getting bigger and bigger all the time. It is time church leaders woke up and responded."