The Connection Between Friendship and Fatherhood


Articles in Faith & Christianity in Family & Kids • June 10, 2020

This article features key findings from Five Essentials to Engage Today’s Men. Order your copy today!

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As the 21st century continues to push steady change in American culture, men are navigating shifts in their roles and expectations in the areas of family, friends, career and more. In light of Father’s Day, we want to celebrate dads around the world by showcasing key findings from Five Essentials to Engage Today’s Men, a recent study on men’s ministry in partnership with BetterMan.

We know from multiple studies that men are having children later than past generations, and perceptions of gender roles within fatherhood are also shifting; in fact, 78 percent of practicing Christian men tell Barna they think it’s okay for fathers to be stay-at-home parents. As fathers in the Church map their expedition into the uncharted future of manhood, Five Essentials to Engage Today’s Men outlines key conversations churches should have about how men connect with their purpose, with others and with their faith.

Below, let’s look at some data points that offer insight into men’s relationships with their family and friends and how these connections play a role in their satisfaction.

For the most part, fathers in the Church are of middle age; nearly half of practicing Christian men ages 35 to 54 (47%) have children in their household, compared to just one-third of Christian men under 35 (37%) and few who are 55 and older (5%). Christian fathers largely report satisfaction in their relationship to their children; half (49%) say they are very satisfied while another three in 10 (30%) say they’re mostly satisfied.

In several dimensions, this study points to the ways that a father’s other relationships may impact their ties with their own children. Importantly, Christian men who report a positive relationship with their father growing up are considerably more likely to say they are very satisfied in their relationship to their own child (53%, compared to 42% of those whose relationship with their father was not positive).

Strong, supportive connections outside the home matter as well. Data show that friendships, especially intergenerational friendships, tend to correlate with greater overall relationship satisfaction. Practicing Christian men who report having intergenerational friendships with both older and younger men are nearly twice as likely to be very satisfied in their relationship with their child (54% vs. 30%) and in their marriage (63% vs. 54%).

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In addition, Christian men who report having a confidant other than their partner or spouse are twice as likely to report being very satisfied in the area of fatherhood (55%) compared to those who have no such confidant (28%).

While we can’t tell the direction of these positive relationships between contentment in community and in fatherhood, it is clear that many forms of relational satisfaction hang together. As churches think through what it means to help men navigate the changing tide of the 21st century, men’s ministry leaders have an opportunity to take stock of the connections that work together to provide support and strength to fathers and have clear reasons to connect men of all stages of life with mentors and friends. Whether it’s in their family, career, friendships or mental and spiritual health, men need each other—and the Church—to help them journey well.

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You can learn more by purchasing copies of Five Essentials to Engage Today’s Men for yourself or your team, or get the report and related sermon slides and tools when you register for Barna Access Plus, our new digital subscription service.

Read more about the importance of facilitating intergenerational connections among men in this post.

Comment on this article and follow our work:
Twitter: @davidkinnaman | @barnagroup
Facebook: Barna Group

About the Research
The research for this study consisted of two online surveys conducted October 8–21, 2019, with 1,593 U.S. men (1,000 practicing Christians and 593 from among the general U.S. population). The margin of error for this sample is plus or minus 2.9 percent at the 95-percent confidence level. The margin of error for the general population of men is plus or minus 3.9 percent at the 95-percent confidence level.

All U.S. men is a nationally representative sample of male U.S. residents ages 18 and older. The group includes self-identified Christians, non-Christians and everyone in between.

Practicing Christians are self-identified Christians who have attended a worship service within the past month and agree strongly that their faith is very important in their life.

Non-Christians identify themselves as something other than Christian, including other religious faiths and “none of the above.”

Photo by Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash.

About Barna
Barna research is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.

© Barna Group, 2020

This article features key findings from Five Essentials to Engage Today’s Men. Order your copy today!

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