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Key Discoveries - Part 8

1.1Married Life Households

Being married and being a Christian does not automatically mean you will connect and relate to your spouse at the deepest part of your personal experience, which is your intimate knowledge of and experience with God.

It takes two:

It takes a lot of courage for a person to share their struggles with someone else; and

It takes a lot of other-loving maturity to steward those deeper matters of the heart.

With 88% of our respondents from the three districts self-identifying as “currently married”, we again so thankful to the district core teams for having 881 married respondents providing anonymous glimpses into their households. Through this, the HomeLifeProfile we use at the parish level has most HLP segments represented. The HLP table below offers a quick look at the variety of married households of church workers in the three districts.

The 88% currently married is made up 19% Young Life (age 39 and younger), 45% Middle Life (age 40-59) and 29% Older Life (age 60+). Of our two-direction vocational orientation households (We are both church workers n=142) we see 12% YL with kids (6% no kids), 7% ML with kids + 18% kids launched (2% no kids), and 49% OL where the empty nest transition is being played out.

The critical window for church worker marriages is the initial 10 years with the two becoming one and the baby makes three transitions the key challenges. In our aggregate we see 16% of the Ordained and 27% of the Commissioned marriages in that critical window. Keep in mind that with the increasing at upon marrying, age and life event are often more difficult to detect—which is why it was built into the research methodology and will be available as the actual care discussions begin.

With 22% of Ordained and 25% of Commissioned household marriages spanning 10-29 years, the marital needs and problems bring more complexity. Some of the transitions are predictable—and suitable for anticipatory marriage enrichment.

Another unexpected element of this study is the 62% of Ordained and 48% of Commissioned household marriages spanning 30 years, and more. For years the common understanding has been that once a couple has been married 30 years—they’ve got it figured out. Longevity of marriage is not always linked to qualitative health of marriages. In the general population—this is the highest risk for divorce group in America.

Assessing Marital Health via the Congregation Needs Assessment

The Marital Health Overall score is the sum of a respondent’s sub-scores of marital satisfaction (adapted from the Kansas Marital Satisfaction Scale), positive bonding (adapted from the Commitment and Dedication Scales), and danger signs (adapted from Relationship Dynamics Scales) used in the former FNS and now CNA for ministry planning purposes since 1999. The validity and reliability measures across than span offer great confidence in generating an aggregate of one respondent per record treatment of the data. Put simply, the graphs and tables represent the marital health across these measures of real “souls” and the affirmation of their health, the sense of emerging concern, or the warning of imminent troubles.

Using the analogy of your car’s dashboard…the calm green glow of the instrument panel affirms that you are good to go—and the fuel gauge is really the only reason to focus your occasional attention. Now should a tire pressure be low, your gas cap loose, or some emerging issue unfolding trigger the yellow service required or check engine light to come—you should be concerned—but can still drive the car a while before dealing with the issue. But should a red warning light come on—this warning is of imminent catastrophic failure! Pull over—shut things down and accept that you are probably going to need some large-scale help.

Viewing the 869 one respondent per record Martial Health Overall scores together, we have a lot to celebrate with 70% of all soul’s marriages seeing that calm green glow as they head out on their one-direction or two-direction path of being a married church worker.

Looking at the sub-sets is also very affirming: Marital Satisfaction (MSat) formed by responses regarding: connection with spouse, relationship daily functioning, contribution to relationship by spouse, and contribution to relationship by self has a 64% green glow. With trait being long-standing characteristics and state being those stirred in the moment, we have come to expect from 6-8% “trait static” across the categories for both yellow concern and red warning scores.

When this group of scales are used at the parish level, our rule of thumb is become concerned when the sum of yellow + red > 35%, and issue warning should the combined sum be >45%--indicating that marital distress has neared the tipping point of having over-arching influence over all the marriages of the parish. These measures are solely to determine the need and urgency of ministry and care to marriages and married individuals—as troubles come to marriages uninvited, and are no different if church workers, or not.

With church worker marriages—the standard of OH, HOW CRUCIAL is it that church workers love their spouses (see 8.6) not only for their own joy, but that of the parish means this rubric will require some careful conversation at both the Synod and District levels.

Now, moving along with the next sub-set of Marital Communication/Bond (MBond) formed by responses regarding: quality of conversations, expressed commitment, confidence through inevitable conflicts, and expressed priority to the marriage has a 75% green glow. To the statement, “We have great conversations where we just talk as good friends” responses of 11%“neutral”, 7% “disagree”, and 1%“strongly disagree hint at the influence of both the “second and third shift” pressures affecting marital conversations with the 37% “strongly agree ”being smaller than the 44% “agree”. This item forming the sub-set contributed to the yellow + red scores. The 99% green glow for the 82% “strongly agree” + 17% “agree” for commitment was to the statement “I want this relationship to stay strong no matter what difficult times we may encounter”. The 68% “strongly agree” responses to both “I believe we can handle whatever conflicts that may arise in the future and 59% “My relationship with my spouse is more important to me than almost anything else in my life” is well above that tipping point of infectious doubt.

The construct of Danger Signs (MDngr) formed by the responses regarding the presence of: escalation, invalidation, negative interpretation, a win/lose outlook, and response of withdrawal/avoidance behaviors in the context of conflict. The response set consisted of “frequently”, “once in a while” and “almost never”. The 76% green glow is a great affirmation that the presence of conflict means we’re a normal couple—but our seeking to work as a team-of-two through it is a gift from God that we seek and celebrate. A closer look at the components one by one shows two worthy of mention now. Negative interpretation is “when our spouse

seems to view our words or actions more negatively than intended for them to be”—with 50% “almost never”, 42% “once in a while”, and 8% “frequently”. The other is withdrawal/avoidance behavior (a form of hide-and-seek) assessed by the statement, “When we argue, one of us withdraws, that is doesn’t want to talk about it anymore or leaves the scene”—with 42% “almost never”, 47% “once in a while” and 12% “frequently”. When one is prone to withdraw and the other is prone to pursue—isolation is quickly the result.

A review of the Marital Health components showed no more than a +/- 6% across all measures, indicating that in the aggregate view, this is not a gender-moderated issue. And with the number of profession + professional households—some additional cross tabulations may add greater clarity.

Viewing Marital Health through the lens of church workers’ status for both the worker and the

spouse, couple of yellow + red upticks were seen. For MSat, an uptick of 9% Yellow service engine appeared with the ordained worker spouses, and an uptick of 7% red warning light from that of their church worker spouse, to 20% for commissioned worker spouses-exceeding the 6-8% “state” noise discussed earlier.

The other uptick was with MDngr where a similar 8% yellow service engine light appeared with ordained worker spouses, rising to 23% from that of the church worker. The uptick was an 11% yellow service engine light for the commissioned worker spouses, rising to 30%.

The question arose, are there any differences across the parish setting and the school setting? With the parish setting, a word of caution is necessary due to the small n= issues that magnify each person’s response. With this group of spouse’s—an MSat of 50% yellow service engine emphasize the need for access to helps can be role specific and at predictable times in the parish setting. To a lesser extent, an uptick in MSat in the school setting spouses of 8% red warning light to 22% and MDngr uptick of 12% yellow service engine light compared to the school worker to 31% yellow, is a concern worthy of further investigation.

Viewed by the HLP lens, middle life (age 40-59) with children showed the greatest measure of distress with MSat (Y=34% + R=19%) and MBond (Y=19% + R=11%) --as the second largest segments, at n=254 or 25% of the entire aggregate.

As this project began, special emphasis was given to the older life (age 60 +) segment—which was revealed as the largest, at n=284. The highly positive green glow numbers hint of great model and mentor candidates who have sorted out those key “my supervisor:

  • encourages a healthy balance between work/ministry and my home life;

  • has a healthy marriage that serves as a model for me; and

  • values and models an appropriate balance between work/ministry and home life.

Most importantly, many might consider coming alongside others, from their current or near future emeritus status—no longer linked to the risks of being the “supervisor” with whom knowledge of certain struggles or problems also questioned future employment.

To the question, “I or my family have secrets, that if they were known would place my continuing as a church worker in question”, we see sufficient souls imminently aware of the tie between their remaining a church worker and “holding it all together” as an individual, as a spouse, and as parent. [More on this in the 10th discovery.]

Statistically, finances are one of the most common causes of divorce. Money can be a source of extreme conflict and stress, leading to a lot of unhappiness in marriage. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways, whether that be arguments about each other’s spending habits or the panic that comes with not having enough money leftover at the end of the month to pay the bills.

While U.S. currency bears the phrase, “In God we trust”, we seem to find times when it is our need of money that tests our wills. THE most resisted part of premarital mentoring is discussing whose money they’re talking about and giving the other permission to ask that they agree in their priorities and values surrounding money. Laying the ground work to what financial commitments they will make and share, how things are paid for takes on more importance than how much each believes they will earn, together.

A presupposition attached to the word “professional” is that by working with one’s mind—you are to be remunerated according to the education and preparation disciplines you’ve endured.

Part of the one-directional vocational orientation vs two-directional vocation orientation discussion earlier in this report got me thinking—what influence, if any does this have on the median income of each type of household. Quite the surprise to see the “typical married household” reporting an average monthly budget of $3,751-$5,000 per month. [Reminder, median monthly budget for those unmarried of $2,500-$3,750.] For the 54% professional married to professional households—what has been committed to be paid each month probably is larger.

When married respondents came to the question, ‘My (our) current level of compensation causes me to worry over whether I can adequately provide basic needs for my family”, 14% ticked “most of the time” or “always”. When asked, “Educational debt is a source of ongoing financial stress in our household”, 10% of married respondents ticked “most of the time” or “always”.

Using the full aggregate, four test questions regarding finances were examined using number of years served in Christian ministry to seek some form of pattern, if one existed. What was found:

Felt Needs: Married Life

A strength of the CNA has been the inquiry of the presence (or absence) of current unmet needs in the respondent’s life. The 31 issue (see in Appendix 8.2) options are clues to the sorts of problems people are facing and the forms of family life education or restorative care connected to the felt need.

To read the table, first look at Rank (listed in descending order). The most common “current unmet need in my life” sets the order of the listing of the actual needs, with the additional columns offering further insights for that list. The middle column lists the percentage of those with the current need who also are open to District help. The higher the percentage—the great receptiveness to help. Conversely, the lower the percentage—the more creative the help might need to come. The last column ranks the current unmet needs in terms of having been ticked when asked, “if you could only list three needs, which is most important to you, second most important and third most important”.

Again, the drawing attention to the Top 10 Needs in no way diminishes the remaining 21, with which soul’s wrestle with daily in their lives and/or marriage. Again, with 93% of the aggregate respondents having experienced marriage, and 88% currently married—the Top 10 list should provide insight into potential one-to-many and one-to-some opportunities for enrichment or transition-readiness.

Note that all intersect the problem with myself, problem with others, problem with the environment (world around me) continuum of life span of family life education, as well as care

When asked about interest in Married Life family life education resources: "Church worker-oriented marriage conferences or retreats" were favorably viewed by 46% of those who identified as married (note 1 in 3 of unmarried and engaged viewing this as favorable); "Practical biblical couple and/or small group studies on various marriage topics" were viewed as favorable by 39% (note as favorable to 43% of those engaged and 33% of unmarried); and "Marriage mentoring" as favorable to 1 in 3 of those not currently married (unmarried and engaged) while favorable to just 15% of those currently married-a concern of which we be address in the following discoveries.

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