The church needs to lead a countercultural movement when it comes to encouraging marriage among young adults and do a better job of discipleship once couples tie the knot.

That was one of the key takeaways from a panel discussion featuring Roland Warren, President and CEO of Care Net, and authors Ryan Bomberger and J.P. De Gance at the Colson Center’s National Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana. John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, moderated the panel discussion, entitled “What the Family Reveals About God.”

Watch the Panel: What the Family Reveals about God

The conversation centered around data (presented by De Gance) indicating married couples share higher levels of satisfaction than cohabitating couples, and children with married parents achieve better academically and have greater emotional and physical health. Despite these statistics and others that point to God’s design for the family as society’s best answer, the average age for marriage has crept upward to 30 years old.

“In the last 60 years, the family has been in free fall,” said De Gance. “In the West, we are seeing levels of apostasy that we have not seen before.”

De Gance, the co-author of Endgame: The Church’s Strategic Move to Save Faith and Family in America, is the founder and president of Communio, a nonprofit that equips churches to become evangelizing hubs for healthy relationships, marriages, and the family.

“The church is still behaving as if it’s the 1950s in terms of our approach to relationships and marriage,” he said.

De Gance pointed to a Barna study that showed how 85 percent of all churches in the United States reported spending $0 annually on marriage and relationship ministry.

“Our churches should really be schools of love where we learn how to live relationships well and how to live marriage well,” he said.

Roland Warren lamented the mixed message that the Church and pro-life community send young people and how career and financial security are often prioritized over marriage: “We don’t want our kids to have sex, but we want them to wait until they’re 30 to get married. But we also don’t want them dating multiple people simultaneously. They have to bring the same person to Thanksgiving every year.”

Warren shared his own marriage testimony to illustrate the point. As students at Princeton University, Warren and his girlfriend Yvette Lopez faced an unplanned pregnancy. When Yvette visited the university’s health services office, a counselor encouraged her to get an abortion, saying, “How will you graduate from Princeton and become a doctor (her dream at the time) with a baby?”

The couple, however, decided to have the baby and get married while they were students. Today, Roland Warren and Yvette Lopez-Warren, Princeton alumni, have two grown sons and three grandchildren. Yvette became a doctor. Roland earned an MBA.

“By the grace of God, we have been married for 41 years,” Warren said. “We built it together. We did all the things that people are saying you can’t do.”

Today, the Church needs to be focused on marriage. Older couples should serve as mentors.

“We should be leaning in, supporting marriage, encouraging marriage,” Warren said. “We’ve bought into the world’s system of stuff being the most important thing. It’s not biblical.”

In his remarks, Bomberger, the author of Not Equal: Civil Rights Gone Wrong, agreed that the Church should be at the forefront of the marriage movement. There needs to be a collaboration between older and younger couples in the process, he said.

Bomberger is the co-founder of RadianceFoundation.org, an organization that illuminates that every human life has purpose. He recalled how he once became frustrated during a collegiate debate when the pro-life side couldn’t present valid arguments; The experience led his organization to delve into research regarding fatherhood and family issues.

“We started creating messaging, a billboard campaign [entitled] ‘Fatherhood begins in the womb.’ And we started messaging about how dads matter. It was simple but profound. It’s amazing how simplicity can resonate with people.”

“As Christians, we should have answers for the questions that are out there.”

When it comes to marriage and family, Warren said Christians need to be keepers of the narrative mandated in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, and subsequently attacked by Satan.

“God has a design,” he said. “That was the first discipleship community.”

“If we, as Christians, live out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission within the context of marriage, it will be winsome to the culture.”