In Church today, my pastor stated that 60% of new Church members or those who visit will quit going after 6 months or less. My pastor also stated that 85% of High School students quit going to church after they start college. I was saddened by these statistics and even sadder to see the articles in Louisville’s Courier-Journal that talked about what churches were doing to try and get parishioners back in. I was sadly wondering to myself, where did everyone go and what happened to faith?
I have to be honest and say that I went to church when I was very young but after my parents split up, I did not attend church. I would say I quit going to church from about the time I was eight years old until this year (2009) at 31 years old. I have to say that it was not the economy that brought me back to church, it was life that brought me back. However, I thought that the current state of the economy would bring more people back to Church in a sense to pray for a better day. Upon reading the newspaper it appeared that more and more Americans were abandoning Church in these hard times. I was also startled to hear my Grandmother state that more Americans were abandoning their religion and that Christians were declining in number. Of course I thought my sweet Grandmother was just upset about the state of the faith in our country, little did I know she was right. I was unsure of the reason for this which led me to do some research of my own.
Church Attendance Hasn’t Changed – So We Say
The Gallop Poll reports between 1992-2003, Church attendance remained steady at between 38-43% of Americans claiming to have attended church in the past seven days (religioustolerance.org). Gallup.com reports that currently 42% of people polled claim to attend Church regularly. From these statistics, one would conclude that current economic times are not causing any real change in our faith as it relates to attendance at Church.
The next question that painfully pops in my head is, are some of these people not telling the truth? For years I said I was a Christian and may have said I attended Church if I had at least gone once in the last few years. Unfortunately, many people will answer questions and polls based on what they think they should say and not the entire truth. Also reported on religioustolerance.com was the fact that 17% of Americans claim to give 10% or more of their income to their Church while only 3% of them actually do.
Of course, I chose to believe that people answer questions by inflating the truth because this is what they know they should do and would like to do. In the end, it appears that Church attendance has not changed much and if it has, it has declined and not soared as one would think it should in such hard times.
Faith in Christianity is On the Downfall
The Gallop Poll reports that Christian Americans are declining in number. The report shows that in the first year of tracking, 1948, 91% of Americans identified themselves as belonging to some form of Christianity. The Gallop report conducted in 2008 showed this number had declined to 77% of Americans who identify themselves as belonging to some sort of Christianity. It appears that the Catholic denominations have remained steady at about 20-23% since the late 1940’s while the Christian sector has declined from high 60% down to a steady stay at 55-57%.
It would appear that it is possible that many Americans are moving to other religions that have been popular in other areas. The truth is that this same Gallop poll reports that in 1948 only 2% of Americans reported no religious affiliation while in 2008, 12% of Americans claimed no religious affiliation.
It appears that Americans are in fact losing our faith. As our country continues to expand and suffer in hard times one would have to assume that we would look for strength in numbers and in faith. As my pastor stated today, maybe it is not the decline in Americans who have faith, it is the decline in those with faith to welcome those who are curious or without faith. It appears that just as Americans have become too fast paced in this world, so have Christians. We rely so heavily on emails and cell phones that we neglect the new curious face that has entered our Church. We assume that someone else has welcomed them and offered to help them find their faith while it is possible that everyone else thought ‘everyone else would do it’. The only way to keep our faith alive is to truly keep our faith alive.