The Barna group has data about which American cities are the most “unchurched,” breaking that category down further into “churchless” (people never having been involved in a church) and “dechurched” (people who used to be involved in a church but aren’t now).
English teacher that I am, I disapprove of the twisted grammar that went into those terms–using the noun “church” as a verb so as to add -ed to it, making it a past participle, and then using that as a noun again. But I’ll let that go. I sample some of the findings after the jump.
At the link, for $99, you can buy a detailed study of individual American cities, showing the religious breakdown, the denominational percentages, and other useful demographic information.
The U.S. has a reputation for being exceptionally religious—and it is true that, historically speaking, churchgoing has played an outsized role in American identity. Still, millions of Americans have little to no connection to local congregations.
Currently, about four in 10 U.S. adults qualify as “unchurched” under Barna’s definition (38%). Unchurched adults have not attended a church service, except for a holiday or special occasion, at any time within the past six months.
Churched and unchurched adults are not evenly distributed across the country. Church attendance varies widely from city to city and region to region. Many cities outpace the overall U.S. population when it comes to church avoidance.
For example, the San Francisco metro area tops the list of America’s most churchless cities: Six in 10 Bay Area residents meet the Barna definition of unchurched (61%). A full list of the nation’s largest metro media markets is shown below, ranked by unchurched population.Barna tracks not only overall churchlessness, but also what proportion of unchurched adults are “dechurched”—that is, who used to attend regularly but have not attended at all in the past six months—and what proportion are “never churched”—meaning they have never in their lives regularly attended a church. Among the general U.S. population, 29% are considered dechurched and 9% are never churched, for a combined total of 38% unchurched. (For a deeper dive into the substantial differences between these two groups, read Churchless by George Barna and David Kinnaman.)
While San Francisco is number one overall when it comes to churchless residents, it ranks sixth on the never-churched list (14%), outpaced by:
1. West Palm Beach-Ft. Pierce, FL (17%)
2. Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-San Luis Obispo, CA (16%)
3. New York, NY (15%)
4. Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville-McAllen, TX (15%)
5. Chico-Redding, CA (15%)
However, the California Bay Area takes the top spot when it comes to dechurched adults (48%), ahead of:
2. Seattle-Tacoma, WA (44%)
3. Portland-Auburn, ME (43%)
4. Boston-Manchester, MA (42%)
5. Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY (41%)
So what is it with the west coast? And the east coast, as compared to the far more “churched” midwest and south? I’m surprised to see a Texas municipality up there so high on the “never churched” list. Can anyone shed light on Brownsville?
If you go to the link, you can find a complete “unchurched” ranking of the 117 cities studied.
I would observe that after the top 9, a majority of the residents of these cities are still “churched.”
Any other observations and discussions from this data?