A new study released Friday by Barna Group researchers suggests that Christian women tend to believe family, not faith, is their highest priority in life.
The study, titled "What Women Want," is the second in a four-part series by the Barna Group on "Christian Women Today." The study was conducted by surveying 603 adult Christian women throughout the U.S. who have attended a regular church service in the last six months.
Over half (53 percent) of those surveyed said their family was their top priority in life, while only 16 percent said faith was most important. Another nine percent of Christian women said their top priority was their health, five percent said it was their career performance and another five percent said it was living a comfortable lifestyle.
When Christian women were asked about what they felt was their most important role in life, the results were similar to their priorities. The majority (62 percent) said their most important role was being a parent, and only 13 percent said their most important role was being a follower of Christ.
David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, said in a statement that some might assume that the research means woman have made their families into "idols" and set them above their relationships with Jesus. Others might view it as a "false choice" women have to make between their families and their faith.
"Between these extremes, perhaps these stats should help both moms and dads to consider the favorable -- and potentially unfavorable -- ways that parenting has affected their faith journey," said Kinnaman.
He later added, "For church leaders and influencers the research underscores the complexity and importance of the God-given role of motherhood for millions of women."
Although faith didn't hold the top spot in either the priority or role categories for women, 73 percent of those surveyed said they have a mature faith. Additionally, 36 percent said they are "completely" satisfied with their own spiritual development, while 42 percent said they are "mostly" satisfied.
Most women also said they have either an "extremely close" (38 percent) or "pretty close" (43 percent) relationship with God, while one percent said they are either "usually not too close" or "extremely distant from God."
Another major finding from the study has to do with those things that most influence women. While women said they were heavily influenced by the Bible (75 percent) or their husbands (63 percent among those who are married), 70 percent of them said the media barely influences them at all.
"In many ways, women's self-perception revealed in this study seems to be aspirational," said Kinnaman. "Women want to be influenced by the Bible, but they reject the idea of being heavily affected by the media. So these aspirations may be reflected in the numbers. Still, the way women describe themselves reveals something: they seem to know how they want to be perceived by others.
On Friday, Kinnaman also posted an interview with Lisa Whittle, author of the new book Whole, on his blog, and he asked her how the church could encourage women to better prioritize their faith.
"I do think it's both instinctual and a bit of a cultural message to put our kids/family first. So how does the church help us put faith above everything we care most about that sits right in front of us? I think it keeps speaking the message of God first in the most loving way," said Whittle.
"We have to help women understand there is a great richness in our roles as wives, moms, executives, ministers, etc., when we put our faith first. When that happens, we stop asking our families, friends and jobs to be our everything and start enjoying them as a relationship without the burden of defining us. To do it this way brings a new freedom."