New study on church-going has surprises

New study on church-going has surprises August 25, 2016

Pew Research has released a new study on church-going, including why people leave, how they choose a new congregation, and why people don’t attend.  Read the study here.

The reason lots of people have stopped going to church, it turns out, is not so much that they are rejecting religion in favor of scientific materialism.  Rather, the logistics of getting up on Sunday and organizing themselves and the family for a trip to church is just too difficult.

The main reason people choose a new congregation is not disagreement with the pastor of the old one (a reason given only by 11%), but because they have moved.  The factor that is most influential in choosing a new congregation?  The pastor’s sermons.

There are other surprises:  denominational loyalty is still an important factor; while many people attend church less, almost 25% of Americans are attending church more.

Take a look at the study and then read an analysis of the findings by Emma Green in the Atlantic, excerpted and linked after the jump.

From Emma Green, How the Percentage of Americans Who Go to Church Every Week Is Changing – The Atlantic:

Pew has a new survey out about the way people choose their congregations and attend services. While Americans on the whole are still going to church and other worship services less than they used to, many people are actually going more—and those who are skipping out aren’t necessarily doing it for reasons of belief.
There were at least three fascinating tidbits tucked into the results of the survey. First, people who report going to worship services less frequently now than they used to overwhelmingly say the logistics of getting there are the biggest obstacle. Second, a significant number of people who said they’re not part of any particular religion expressed mistrust of religious institutions, suggesting these organizations’ reputations have something to do with why people are dropping out of public religious participation.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, the country seems to be split in half in terms of how often people get to services. Roughly 51 percent of Americans say they go to church or another worship service somewhere between once a month and multiple times per week, while 49 percent said they go rarely or never. But within that 51 percent, more than half of people said they go more often than they used to—in other words, about quarter of Americans have gotten more active in their religious communities in recent years, not less.

On the other hand, fewer than half of the people who rarely or never go to church said this has been a new decline in the last few years; a greater portion of that group said they’ve always stayed home on Sundays. All of this is a way of saying that, comparatively speaking, there’s more activity happening on the devout side of the spectrum than the drop-out side; this study suggests that even in a time of religion’s public decline, some people are experiencing religious revival.

According to the survey, about one-fifth of Americans now go to religious services a few times a year, but say they used to go a lot more. Roughly half of this group stopped going as often because of what the researchers called “practical issues”: They are too busy, have a crazy work schedule, or describe themselves as “too lazy” to go. Others said they just don’t care about attending services as much as doing other things.

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