Why is Church Attendance Still Declining?

It’s a Real Problem
In so many churches I visit, it’s obvious that church attendance is really suffering.

Numerous research studies have been performed on this issue over the years, and documented many of the reasons for this. The reasons change little over time, but too few churches, clergy, and members take them seriously and address them. Well-known church researcher Thom Rainer PhD, in his book The Unchurched Next Door, notes three observations which strike at the heart of this behavior.

1. Most people come to church because of a personal invitation.
I’ve been in Alaska since 1999 and have never received a true invitation to anyone’s church. In an Outreach magazine article in 2007, Thom and Sam Rainer are quoted as saying “Perhaps one of the most underestimated reasons people return to church is that someone simply invited them back.”

2. 7 out of 10 unchurched people have never been invited to church in their whole lives.
If invited, 8 out of 10 unchurched men and women would come to church. I belong to a well-known national service organization and member behavior is documented to such an extent that we are aware only 15% of our members have ever invited someone to join our organization. The same thing is happening with churches and their members but bare knowledge of this does not yet seem to be affecting behavior.

3. The top “rational” reason adults seldom or never attend church is they don’t agree with organized religion or what they preach.
Another way of saying this is the “talk doesn’t match the walk”. This is unfortunately one of the major reasons coming out of studies of why the 18-29 year-old set is deserting church. It’s quoted over and over again. This younger set talks about the inconsistencies in the lives of church people surrounding them noting their preoccupation with pornography, gambling, and entertainment, to name a few, while decrying the issues the younger set is realistically dealing with such as premarital sex and alternative views of science.

In future posts I’ll continue sharing more of the latest research and trends affecting church attendance. As always, I’m interested in your ideas about church attendance. I appreciate each comment that appears on this blog.