Who is still going to Church?

May 22, 2012

One measure of the decline of church strength and authority is church membership and attendance.  And by that measure, U.S. secularity is rising to surprising heights.  Church-goers are now a minority in America.

Churches don’t regard people showing up just a few times a year as real church-goers, and they search for ways to convert them into regular members. Just keeping people in the pews is a full-time job in itself for most congregations.  But that job keeps getting harder.  The March 2012 Gallup poll on religious behavior in the United States exposes how lots of people are avoiding church.  As Gallup reports, “32% of Americans are nonreligious, based on their statement that religion is not an important part of their daily life and that they seldom or never attend religious services.”

That’s a huge number of people admitting how they aren't attending church much at all.  And in reality, there's probably even fewer people in church.  People lie about going to church.  According to various studies of peoples’ actual behavior, less than 25% of Americans go to church 2-3 times or more each month nowadays.  See an essay by Tom Rees at Epiphenom and another by Rebecca Barnes and Lindy Lowry at churchleaders.com

The Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies has periodically collected data from all of America’s churches about their regular membership, and the latest report is available: 2010 U.S. Religious Census: Religious Congregations & Membership Study.  As it reports, the population of the United States was 308,745,538 in 2010; in 2000 it was 281,421,839. How many Americans are church members? Just 150,686,156 Americans. That sounds like a lot of people, and it is, but that is only 48.8% of the total population in 2010.  51.2% of Americans are not members of any congregation.

A bare majority of Americans are not connected with any religious congregation, and an even larger majority are hardly ever showing up in any house of worship.  Church-goers have become a minority in America.