Researchers Jennifer Glanville of the University of Iowa and David Sikkink and Edwin Hernandez of the University of Notre Dame examined national data for 7th through 12th graders and discovered that students who went to church on a weekly basis had, on average, “a GPA .144 higher than those who never attend services.” In fact, the impact was slightly higher than for those whose parents had both obtained a college degree, which was an average of .12 higher.
The social interaction aspects “account for only half the predicted effect.”
The study suggests that the main reasons for the boost is because places of worship afford children social interaction that they might not have available otherwise through time spent with other adults and children who share similar interests. However, the researchers admit that the social interaction aspects “account for only half the predicted effect.”
On the other hand, the researchers also found that the importance of religion (also examined in this study) did not have a marked impact on GPA. To the researchers, this meant that the social interactions were most important, as they believe children in church are “more likely to have friends with higher GPAs who skipped school less often.”
If this study were an isolated benefit of attending church, we might be justified in dismissing it as an aberration. However, as the LiveScience article points out, church attendance has also been linked with breathing easier, a longer life, and having better-behaved, more socially adjusted children. While the researchers claim that it is merely the structure and social aspects that matter, perhaps they are refusing to ponder the more weighty considerations.
Obviously, there isn’t enough data to correlate an absolute connection between just church attendance and better grades, as more research is needed (though this would be a blow to those who claim that atheists are more intelligent than believers). They pointed out the observable aspects of going to church (social interaction, friendships, communication), but these alone did not account for the total bump in scores according to the researchers.
Perhaps the main reason for the improved scores, the better breathing, and the longer life are not simply manifestations of social interaction. Perhaps the main reason is something that the researchers refused to consider: God, who is in fellowship Himself, created us to be social and to interact with fellow believers. And attending church, being “religious,” and being a Christian can all be separate factors. As we said, there is not enough data to make firm conclusions. But it seems there’s more to this “church thing” than bake sales and Bingo after all.
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