The Barna Group recently published an article summarizing some of their most US research on the “Churchless”. It coincides with the publication of a new book (excerpt here) with the same title. Here are excerpts from the article.
“…4. There Are Different Expectations of Church Involvement
Another intriguing shift among the churchless has to do with their expectations of church involvement. In the early 1990s, our research showed that nearly seven out of 10 adults, if they were to visit a church, would be most interested in attending the Sunday service. Today, weekend worship services remain the most common entry experience, but only slightly; now, only 57% of churchless adults say they would be interested in Sunday worship as their starting point. Today's unchurched are more likely to say they are simply not sure, reflecting their disinterest in churches generally, or are more likely to say they would prefer attending some activity other than the Sunday service.
A similar shift is afoot in terms of the number of churches they would attend. The churchless were asked in both 1993 and in 2011 if they would prefer to be involved in one church or multiple churches in their area. Two decades ago, even the unchurched expressed some sense of church loyalty (albeit hypothetical): 85% said they would expect to attend just one congregation. The recent study reflects a slight loosening of this potential loyalty, but the more notable shifts are among those who don't have a preference and who aren't sure. Together, these percentages doubled from 8% to 16%, reflecting growing cultural indifference to church involvement.
5. There Is Skepticism about Churches' Contributions to Society
Although many of the churchless hold positive views of churches, a substantial number also have no idea what Christians have accomplished in the nation, either for the better or for the worse. When the unchurched were asked to describe what they believe are the positive and negative contributions of Christianity in America, almost half (49%) could not identify a single favorable impact of the Christian community, while nearly two-fifths (37%) were unable to identify a negative impact. Of those who could identify one way Christians contribute to the common good, the unchurched appreciate their influence when it comes to serving the poor and disadvantaged (22%), bolstering morals and values (10%) and helping people believe in God (8%). Among those who had a complaint about Christians in society, the unchurched were least favorably disposed toward violence in the name of Christ (18%), the church's stand against gay marriage (15%), sexual abuse scandals (13%) and involvement in politics (10%)…”
You can read the complete article here. Thanks again to Gabe for bringing, from afar, the article / Barna book to my attention. For a more Kiwi flavour I highly recommend Alan Jamieson’s research, his first publication being A Churchless Faith: Faith Journey’s Beyond the Churches.