God's trending among New Yorkers

God's trending among New Yorkers September 1, 2011

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?

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  • Karen, you have already read (and commented on) this, but here’s how 9/11 affected me: http://middletree.blogspot.com/2011/08/saying-goodbye-to-one-set-of-twins-and.html

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      It’s worth reading for any of you. James has quite the story to tell about 9/11. Thanks for the post buddy.

  • Back to your post: In the months after 9/11 happened, I felt the same emotions many Americans did, including a significant amount of patriotism. I bowed my back like a cat who’s ready for a fight. But when I saw others do it, I dunno, it didn’t seem right.

    That is, I love my country, and I am proud to be an American, but there was something about the attitude I saw in many of my fellow citizens that wasn’t right. It was as if they were saying “I’m an American, dammit! Nobody attacks the USA on our own soil!”, followed by boasts of how strong we are as a people.

    Once I saw that in myself and others, I was thinking how much better it would be if we all, as a nation, admitted that we are weak, not strong. And we are not to be proud of independence, but we should humbly acknowledge our dependence. On Him, who loves us no more than other nations, but loves us no less than other nations, either.

    In other words, I would have liked to see more people on their knees and less people beating their chests. And this is coming from a right-wing-votin’ former soldier.

    I’d never say that God caused the attacks of that day, of course, but He could very well use them to shape us as a people, and I fear we missed it, big-time.

  • To quote a line from a recent AFA (American Family Association) email… “New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has banned all clergy and all prayer from the upcoming 9/11 memorial service planned to commemorate the tragic events of that day.” Apparently he doesn’t give two hoots or a handshake to the Barna Group’s findings.

    And that is really very sad.


  • The son and daughter in law of one my of closest friends here in Australia left to go to NY to start a Hillsong church there about a year ago. I presume its going well, Hillsong churches usually do quite well. I guess this reflects an attitude where NY has become a bit of a mission field to other countries in the wake of the WTC incident. I guess.