God is the latest thing trending among New Yorkers.
That’s the word out from the good folks over at the Barna Group.
Despite the troubling nationwide decline of church attendance, in New York church attendance is on the upswing. According to a recent Barna study — Faith in New York since 9/11 — weekly church attendance in New York was at its lowest in the years right before 9/11. In 1999 & 2000 only 31 percent were making church a part of their weekly activities. That’s grown to 46 percent of the market’s residents. Barna is quick to point out that while Protestants and Catholics make up the lion’s share of church-goers, for the purpose of this study, they did not exclude attendance of other faith groups who participate in weekly religious services.
More New Yorkers are reading their Bibles –up from 29 percent to 35 percent.
And more New Yorkers are incorporating their faith into their daily lives. (I never understood how people compartmentalized faith from daily living to begin with, but…) Barna identifies these people as “active-faith adults”, meaning they read their Bibles, attend church on a regular basis and pray. The number of New Yorkers who consider themselves active-faith adults has grown from 17 percent to 24 percent.
The only thing that seems to be on the decline is the percentage of New Yorkers who are unchurched — meaning they haven’t attended a worship service in the last six months. Those who identified themselves as unchurched fell from 42 percent to 34 percent.
One of the more significant findings of the study was the percentage of New Yorkers who identified their faith as being very important to them — 61 percent – or three out of five people. (C’mon. Admit it. Somebody told you that New Yorkers were a godless bunch. Now you have the statistical evidence to refute that. )
It’d be easy, I suppose, to jump to the conclusion that there’s nothing like a terrorist attack, or an economic implosion to put a little fear of God in people, even in New York.
And there’s no discounting that we are that shallow when it comes to God. We seek him the most when we need him the greatest. That’s not a New York trend. That’s a human trend.
So, yes, it’s true New Yorkers ran en masse to God in the wake of 9/11.
But David Kinnaman, the Barna Group president, who directed the study noted that “the research suggests that faith and religion took on new urgency for many New Yorkers after 9-11, but the impact was neither immediate nor long-lived. While people’s born again commitment and religion’s importance did grow in the years after 9-11, church attendance and active faith measures did not really start increasing until after 2004.”
What exactly prompted that change in New Yorkers may not be measurable in statistical terms. But, I suspect like a lot of us, many New Yorkers have come to realize that chasing after the next shiny gizmo is a pretty worthless way to spend what little life all of us have.
How about you? How have you changed, or how has your faith grown as a result of 9/11?