The following was included in the report on the National LCMS Church Worker Family Needs Assessment Pilot Report.
Understanding the spectrum of today’s church worker families.
There are seven key categorical variables which serve to describe the households of our 1,001 respondents from our three districts. They are: age, generation, current marital/relational status, the presence (or absence) of children in my life, age of the oldest dependent child (or grandchild/foster child at home), age of the youngest dependent child (or grandchild/foster child at home), church worker household connection and HomeLifeProfile.
Were we to generate a “typical respondent” statistically, that individual would be born in 1964 or age 50-59 group (26%), female (54%), a late “Baby Boomer” (48%), married to their current spouse (88%) for twenty to twenty-nine years (19%), a parent (81%), with two children (40%), the age of the oldest child or dependent in the home 26+ (42%), the age of the youngest child or dependent in the home being 19-25 (15%), are the church worker (81%), live in a commissioned minister household (62%), which has served in Christian ministry 6-15 years (22%), now 6-15 years in your current call/assignment (30%), where your spouse is not a church worker (43%), facing the transition from middle life into older life (45%), while serving in a suburban setting (50%).
If indeed such an actual person were a member of a church worker household in any of these three districts—it would be pretty straightforward to design and deliver targeted forms of hope and help to this narrowly defined group. So while we have been blessed to have gathered a representative, stratified random sample of 1,001 respondents from these three districts, the truth is that 21st century LCMS church worker households revealed the necessity of care being available to the wider spectrum through one-to-many (issues common to all), one-to-some (issues shared by some and of great importance), and one-to-one (issues entangled and unique at the individual level).
The range of ages of respondents runs from the age 18-19 group through age 80+. The largest respondent group is 27% age 50-59 with the second largest group at 24% age 60-69 together making up half of the entire aggregate. Ages 40-49 (18%) and 30-39 (16%) represent leading indicators of the next generation of church worker households.
Year of birth leads us to assignment to a generation. The original “Baby Boomers” (born 1946-1964) topped the respondents with 48%,32% Generation-X (born 1965-1982) and 14% “New Boomers” (born 1983-2001).
In research, how we name key variables is very important. If we tie a new variable to an old name—the tendency is to attach all sorts of former presuppositions to that term. This generational name—the one demographers assigned prior to the Y2K craze—is important in gaining context to link past and present church worker life.
It wasn’t that many years ago that if we asked someone their marital status we expected a binary response of either 0-unmarried (11%) or 1-married (88%), with the only exception being that of engaged (1%). For this study, we offered 10 marital/relational statuses—with all self-identified. While single- never married (47% of the 120 currently single) was the most common with 11% engaged behind both 23%single-again by divorce and 13% single-again by death of spouse With 60% of adult singles over the age of 40—our picture of unmarried church workers requires a revisit.
Even our picture of those married requires revisiting. Of the 88% currently married is included 1% who remarried after the death of their spouse and 5% who remarried after divorce with many now remarried 20+ years. Of the 932 who have experienced marriage, 89% are in “life-time” marriages with the spouse of their youth! This is a BIG DEAL—and is worthy of celebration and praise to God. The qualitative look at these marriages will follow, later in this report.
The current (81%) presence (or119% absence) of children in a church worker household adds a new tier of Christ-like relationships to the mix. A total of 797 respondents self-identified with one of the fourteen parental statuses offered. Of this group 8% have children from a previous marriage or relationship, 4% are single/solo parents,27% are grandparents, and 2% are those with adult children and their grandchildren in their home. Oh yes, and 12% are also caring for their aging parent/in-law.
So how has this demographic discovery changed your portrait of today’s church worker family?