Why don’t people go to church?

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David L. Hansen writing in The Lutheran finds out why people don’t go to church:

Ask any group in your church: “Why do people not come to worship? What keeps people away from church?” You might hear:

• “We need a better youth program.”

• “We have to have a different style of worship service.”

• “We need to advertise.”

• “If only we had a nursery for young children.”

….

These are the answers that church people give when they try to figure out why people don’t go to church. Friends, we could not be more wrong.

I recently spent a week using social media to “listen” to people who do not go to church — listening to their explanations for why they stay away. I didn’t argue with them. I didn’t defend the church. I just listened. And what I heard broke my heart.

The No. 1 thing that keeps people away from the church is the people who are in the church.

….

It’s not that people outside the church have low expectations of Christians. It’s the opposite. They expect us to actually live out the things we proclaim on Sunday. They expect us to love our neighbor, care for the least of these and love our enemies.

They have high expectations for us, and we have disappointed them. Instead they have been insulted, hurt and broken by us.

Programs are at the bottom of the list for why people don’t come to church.

h/t to Friends of Jake

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Pat Woolley
Guest
Pat Woolley

It is becoming more important then ever to look at 'a church' in your community rather than 'the church' to be a part of the life that Jesus shows us how to live. A person who is looking for that life should try out different churches to see what fits. These blanket statements about the church, clergy, and congregations are unfair.

Pat Woolley

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Pam
Guest

I know a lot of people who would never think of going to church, not because they ever had a bad experience but because they see it as somehow childish or naive.

Other people might vaguely be interested, but their lives are full and they have no reason to make the commitment. It is harder and harder in my community to get people to take the time to go to an interesting lecture or art event. Church every week is even lower on the priority list.

Where I do agree with the original post is that it is crucial that the church live out its promise to be a caring community. If someone does turn to God and the church when they are in a low point in their life, it is crucial that they find help from the body of Christ.

[Editor's note: Thanks for the comment. Please leave your name next time.]

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Dale McNeill
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Dale McNeill

I've recently moved from one city to another. I'm quite active in church (I was one of the wardens in my last parish), but I'm finding it difficult to find a new parish that seems worth the effort of attending--and I very much want to. Mostly, people entirely ignore me. And, to be sure, sometimes that feels just right. But when trying to become part of a community, it's a bit off-putting.

I also want to say one brief thing to Harriet: the best preachers I've heard caused me to think of things in a new way. A book, an essay, a song, none of those things give us the direct opportunity to respond, but they can enrich our lives. And many preachers do give opportunity for discussion during the sermon.

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Chris Epting
Guest

As sad and tragic as this is, I believe it is absolutely right! Wake up, Church!

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Harriet Baber
Guest

We don't go to church because…

(1) Christianity has become completely identified by the general public with an unacceptable moral and social agenda. Evangelicalism is now the public face of religion, and Episcopalians, now representing less than 1% of the population, are invisible and inaudible. No matter how much we make a fuss about gay rights and other good liberal agendas, no one hears. We're swamped by the Evangelicals: bad money drives out good.

(2) Religion is perceived as a system of obligations for belief and action rather than a source of enjoyment through ceremony, stories and art. People regard churches are preaching stations rather than holy places where they can get aesthetic pleasure and a vision of another world--mysticism and metaphysical thrills or, if you will (spirituality).

(3) There is absolutely no reason why educated people in a "world come of age" should pay attention to the meanderings of clergy or look to them for guidance. We're as smart and educated as they are, can take care of ourselves. The very idea of a sermon--a didactic talk without even a chance for Q&A is an insult to us.

(4) For all its pretensions to being liberal and democratic, the Episcopal Church is riddled with clericalism and lay people are not taken seriously. We are, as one priest put it, "pastoral care objects." We aren't treated as rational, educated adults: clergy attempt to manipulate us "using psychology."

The church is a voluntary organization--now de facto as well as de jure. Why should we go if it doesn't give us what we want, and patronizes and insults us into the bargain?

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