The most remarkable part of the survey I posted last week came when I queried respondents about their current level of church involvement, how this current level compared to their involvement 10 years ago, and then asked why they’d answered as they had. To find out what I discovered about the survey’s respondents and connections with a local church, click here.
At the time of this writing, 163 people had taken the survey. 141 of them answered my question about their level of involvement in a local church in this way:
- 51% attend weekend corporate worship services every week, and are committed to additional participation in a church-based small group, Bible study or service/outreach ministry.
- 22% attend corporate worship services each week, and an additional 8% attend corporate worship service a couple of times a month. 8% do not attend church at all. (Some sporadic attenders have found other venues – such as home groups or community service groups – their primary source for spiritual connection.) A couple of commenters noted that they worship at home with family members, and listen/watch sermons online.
152 people also answered the question “Are you more, less, or just as involved in a local church as you were 10 years ago?”
- 40% said they were less involved than they were a decade ago.
- 28% said they were just as involved equally involved.
- 26% said they were more involved.
I followed that question by asking “Why?” 124 people took the time to jot a line or two in response! I wish I had the space to share each syllable. Whether respondents were more, less or just as involved, I heard from each a desire for what the church is meant to be. These words are so important. Please take a few moments to listen to these words:
From those who said they were less involved than they were 10 years ago:
- Tired of same programs year after year. Want deeper relationships with fewer people, more spiritual exercises like prayer and meditation than the canned studies offered. Found other places to connect.
- There was no place for me. A wounded person, I found I was always expected to give, and an already empty vessel was depleted. The nuclear family centric box excluded me. I also disagree with the assumption that we agree on everything.
- Disilusionment, husband left a pastorate, no relationships in the local church. More painful than positive.
- Husband ill for long period of time and no contact from church. Loss of son by taking his own life. Little support from church members.
- Too much perfume, condemnation of those different than others, can’t afford tithing and humiliation because of it, unaccepted because I’m gay.
- Children are grown, our age, distance from our church.
- It’s complicated. My job is more demanding, and I need to work harder to hold onto it. Also, church structures are changing and I don’t feel the same sense of community. Church used to come before anything else, but now I’m looking for ways to serve God in the wider world.
- Betrayal by church leadership over and over and over again.
- No interest in the political wranglings or drama.
- Have basically maintained a level of involvement of attendance + some sort of community/fellowship + some sort of ministry/service.
Representing those who said they’d maintained the same level of involvement:
- It’s one of my primary outlets for community, friendship, service, and spiritual formation.
- We are all given gifts to be shared with the body of believers. So, I not only feel I should be involved in using my gifts, but am happy in doing so.
- I’m clergy.
- On the vestry.
- I’m committed to my church.
- Have basically maintained a level of involvement of attendance + some sort of community/fellowship + some sort of ministry/service
From those who’ve gotten more involved:
- I had children and want to expose them to people of faith.
- I took the opportunity to become involved with ministries that I think I can help out with and add something to.
- More involved because I accepted a leadership position this year.
- My children are all grown and I have more free time for the Lord to use me.
- I decided that I needed more spiritual input to strengthen my walk/faith.
- Being involved in the local church is a requirement for those who are obeying God, and I enjoy being able to teach kids about Him. It also helps in my spiritual growth to be around other believers.
- I need to stay close to others who encourage me to grow and stay strong.
- I was on my way out of a church ten years ago – a urban singles focused church, I was part of the “old guard” and moving out the way to let a new generation through. Now I’m in a more traditional and wider congregation where there are more “jobs” and a greater need for formal participation.
- I realize the importance of the church community, sharing gifts and especially coming along side the next generation.
I will keep the survey open for a few more days. If you’re over 40, please stop by and weigh in.
In my next post, I’ll take a look at what this survey tells us all – no matter what our age – about our relationship with the local church. And I’ll offer some preliminary thoughts about how things change for many of us at midlife and beyond.