Women Leaving the Church

From The Christian Century:

Women, long considered the dominant pew dwellers in the nation’s churches, have shown a dramatic drop in attendance in the last two decades, a new survey shows.

Since 1991, the percentage of women attending church during a typical week has decreased by 11 percentage points to 44 percent, the Barna Group reported Monday (Aug. 1).

[...]
“For years, many church leaders have understood that `as go women, so goes the American church,’`’ wrote Barna Group founder George Barna, on his website. “Looking at the trends over the past 20 years, and especially those related to the beliefs and behavior of women, you might conclude that things are not going well for conventional Christian churches.”

From the Barna Group itself:

No population group among the sixty segments examined has gone through more spiritual changes in the past two decades than women. Of the 14 religious factors studied, women have experienced statistically significant changes related to 10 of them. Of those transitions, eight represent negative movement – that is, either less engagement in common religious behaviors or a shift in belief away from biblical teachings.

Five of the six religious behaviors tracked showed significant change.

  • Church attendance among women sank by 11 percentage points since 1991, declining to 44%. A majority of women no longer attend church services during a typical week.
  • Bible reading has plummeted by 10 percentage points, declining from half of all women reading the Bible during a typical week (excluding that done during church events) to just four out of ten doing so today (40%).
  • Sunday school involvement is less common among women these days, down seven points from the 24% mark noted in 1991.
  • Women have traditionally been the backbone of volunteer activity in churches. However, there has been a nine point slide in the percentage of women helping out at a church during any given week. That drop reflects a 31% reduction in the non-paid female work force at churches.
  • The only religious behavior that increased among women in the last 20 years was becoming unchurched. That rose a startling 17 percentage points – among the largest drops in church attachment identified in the research.

Interesting. As Barna points out, conventional wisdom has always said that women were the core constituency of the American Christian church. They filled the pews, ran the day care and volunteered to help around the church.

Has something changed? Why are women leaving the pews now?

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