Why people go to church

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Gallup released results from a poll that sought to understand why people go to worship.

 

The poll was conducted among respondents who attended worship at least monthly at a church, synagogue, or mosque.  The overwhelming majority were Christians (in line with the general population) which also allowed Gallup to differentiate between Roman Catholics and Protestants.

 

Among the choices given were:

  • A good choir, praise band, cantors or other spiritual music
  • Lots of community outreach and volunteer opportunities
  • Spiritual programs geared toward children and teenagers
  • Sermons or talks that teach you more about scripture
  • Sermons or lectures that help you connect religion to your own life
  • Dynamic religious leaders who are interesting and inspiring
  • Social activities that allow you to get to know people in your community

 

The poll asked those who grew up attending worship at least monthly but who reported that they no longer attended why they chose to not be part of a worshipping community.

 

Their choices included;

  • You don’t feel welcome when you do attend
  • You aren’t very religious
  • You prefer to worship on your own
  • You don’t like organized religion
  • You don’t like being asked for money when you attend
  • You haven’t found a church or other place of worship that you like
  • You don’t have the time
  • You aren’t sure what religion is right for you
  • Poor health or other problems prevent you from going

 

What was the top reason people gave for why they attended worship?  Music? volunteer opportunities?  Nope.  The top response was Sermons.  “Sermons or talks that teach you more about scripture” and “Sermons or lectures that help you connect religion to your own life” were nearly tied at 76% and 75% respectively.

 

All answers in order of preference were

MAJOR FACTOR % MINOR FACTOR %

NOT A FACTOR %

Sermons or talks that teach you more about scripture 76 16 8
Sermons or lectures that help you connect religion to your own life 75 16 8
Spiritual programs geared toward children and teenagers 64 21 15
Lots of community outreach and volunteer opportunities 59 27 13
Dynamic religious leaders who are interesting and inspiring 54 28 17
Social activities that allow you to get to know people in your community 49 36 14
A good choir, praise band, cantors or other spiritual music 38 36 25

 

But why don’t people go to worship?  Why have people lapsed?  Losing faith wasn’t any option, though not being very religious is probably a good proxy and that was the most important reason for a third of respondents, but a general unease or dislike of organized communities were the biggest reasons for the largest number of respondents, though neither was true for half or more of respondents.  Not feeling welcomed was at the bottom of the church.

 

The results for these were:

MAJOR FACTOR % MINOR FACTOR %

NOT A FACTOR %

You prefer to worship on your own 44 21 34
You don’t like organized religion 36 25 37
You aren’t very religious 33 32 33
You haven’t found a church or other place of worship that you like 22 24 53
You don’t have the time 19 28 52
You aren’t sure what religion is right for you 17 23 59
You don’t like being asked for money when you attend 16 29 55
Poor health or other problems prevent you from going 10 19 71
You don’t feel welcome when you do attend 9 25 65

 

The differences between Roman Catholics and Protestants turned out similarly, with the overall ranking for each differing little from the combined “Christian” results.  Quality sermons and youth formation were still the top three.  The one area of real difference was how important each rated the role of music.  Though in each case, it was still the least important factor for attending worship, for Protestants, 44% rated it as major factor, whereas for Roman Catholics, only 22% did so.

 

So what are the lessons we in the Episcopal Church might draw?  Gallup’s own conclusion was that “to expand their ranks, reigniting the interest of lapsed members should be a priority. Converting those who say they aren’t very religious or who don’t like organized religion may be futile. But churches and others may find some success with the message that worshipping in communion with others has benefits that can’t be achieved worshipping alone — addressing the No. 1 reason non-attendees give for not attending.”

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JoaoP
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JoaoP

"As you come to Him....you also.....are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. "
it someone truly comes to the Lord, he or she is acted upon....i.e. "being built" into something bigger than the individual. it's a God thing.....a Grace thing...a Holy Spirit thing.

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Steven Kelly
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Interesting, but when someone says "I prefer to worship on my own" and I ask them how, they don't actually. The prefer to sleep in perhaps, maybe, fire up a prayer to two on Sunday morning....if that. Sorry, but I call BS on this answer in most cases. They don't worship except maybe worship themselves.

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Lezley McDouall
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Lezley McDouall

I'd be interested to see the 'Protestant' results broken down a bit further. Your average Episcopalian and your average Baptist vary greatly from one another.

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Dr. David Ouzts
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Great. My vocation is now completely validated.

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