Not very, according to a new Barna study, at least for 51% of Americans.
What, if anything, helps Americans grow in their faith? When Barna Group asked, people offered a variety of answers—prayer, family or friends, reading the Bible, having children—but church did not even crack the top-10 list.
Although church involvement was once a cornerstone of American life, U.S. adults today are evenly divided on the importance of attending church. While half (49%) say it is “somewhat” or “very” important, the other 51% say it is “not too” or “not at all” important. The divide between the religiously active and those resistant to churchgoing impacts American culture, morality, politics and religion.
Looking to future generations does not paint an optimistic picture for the importance of churchgoing. Millennials (those 30 and under) stand out as least likely to value church attendance; only two in 10 believe it is important. And more than one-third of Millennial young adults (35%) take an anti-church stance. In contrast, Elders (those over 68) are the most likely (40%) to view church attendance as “very” important, compared to one-quarter (24%) who deem it “not at all” important. Boomers (ages 49—67) and Gen Xers (ages 30—48) fall in the middle of these polar opposites. While the debate rages about what will happen to Millennials as they get older—Will they return to church attendance later in life?—they are starting at lower baseline for church participation and commitment than previous generations of young adults.
Implicit in all of this is the “me and Jesus” approach to Christianity that has little need for church at all, other than perhaps as a place of instruction. Missing is not only the corporate dimension of the Christian life but the presence of Christ in the church through Word and Sacrament.
Does anyone have any ideas about how to address this marginalization of the church?