Over the relatively few years I’ve been your pastor, the numbers in America who claim “no religion” have increased from 12% to 21%. That is a tectonic shift over a mere 6.5 years. If religion were a stock your broker would be calling you to sell.
But not so fast. Even in these hard times, as the church has hemorrhaged, some churches—not so many–have managed a modicum of growth. We are one of those churches. Lesson one: let’s not take that for granted. Frankly, after a rocky summer, I can see in your faces and you can see in mine that we are not taking anything for granted around FCC, D. Lesson two: let’s educate ourselves about how to be a faithful and inviting church during a period of national “outmigration.”
In 2015 we spent Sundays considering Millennials and the church. A recent Pew Research Center reminds us not to focus so narrowly. Some 4,729 Americans spoke of why they do (or don’t) attend religious services. Here is the breakdown, with some editorial remarks. More than half who believe but don’t attend religious services regularly are women. This group is underserved, mostly Republican women. Many say they haven’t found a house of worship they like and practice their faith “in other ways.” Invite someone for Welcome Back Sunday, Sept. 9!
Top Reasons for Attending Church Once Per Month
To grow closer to God. (81%) Impressive that so many want church for this!
To give children a foundation. (69%) Jesus said, a little child will lead them.
To become a better person. (68%) Real character most often starts in faith.
For comfort in troubled or sad times. (66%) No atheists in foxholes, right?
They find the sermons valuable. (59%) Preaching is frighteningly central!
To be part of a faith community. (57%) True community is rare in America.
To continue their family’s religious tradition. (37%) Wisdom from the ages.
They feel obligated to go. (31%) More Catholics feel this way than we do.
To meet new people or socialize. (19%)…with those who share our values.
To please partner, spouse, or family (16%) Mostly guys saying, “Yes, dear.”
Top Reasons for Skipping Regular Worship
They practice their faith in “other ways.” (37%) Often, but not always, golf.
They are not believers. (28%) Who can argue with this? It is most honest.
No reason is “very important.” (26%) Indifference and inertia are very real.
They haven’t found a place of worship they like. (23%) A consumer angle.
They don’t like the sermons. (18%) Somewhat inevitable, but this is on me.
They don’t feel welcome. (14%) Don’t hear it much here, but this is on you.
They don’t have time. (12%) We’ll spend our time on what we value most.
Poor health or mobility. (9%) This befalls elders, our most faithful group.
No house of worship nearby. (7%) Really? Or are they not trying so hard?