Declining fertility rates and environmental crisis challenge our understandings of family, stewardship, and being a good neighbor.
Lily Jones Howard grew up in a church in southern California with a burgeoning children’s and youth ministry. The church held afternoon and evening AWANA clubs and ran separate junior high and high school youth groups. She compares that to the church she and her husband and two children attend now. The median age of members, she guesses, is about 65 or 70. “The pastor has said explicitly that children are the lifeblood of the church,” Howard said. The congregation makes an effort to welcome young families like hers.
In the near future, an increasing number of American evangelicals may find themselves with church experiences like the Howard family’s for one principal reason: evangelicals with children are slowly becoming harder to find.
Americans in general are having fewer children today than they did two generations ago. Spiking after World War II, the fertility rate declined to around two lifetime births per woman in the ‘80s and has hovered there since, according to the Pew Research Center. Evangelicals, however, had maintained higher than average fertility rates until recently, according to University of Oklahoma sociologists Samuel Perry and Cyrus Schleifer.
Perry and Schleifer analyzed data from several decades of the General Social Survey (GSS) and found that, between 1972 and 2016, conservative Protestants went from having six percent more children than mainline Protestants to roughly the same number. Painted in broad strokes, what this means is that evangelicals now seem to be having about the same number of children as anybody else in America.
Demographers, politicians, and pundits are all concerned about head counting as the 2020 US Census approaches on top of a presidential election. …