The Main Reason a Majority of Churchgoers Changed their Church

A new study from Lifeway Research has revealed the main reason most church-going Americans say they left one church for another, and the top reason is not because they didn’t like the pastor’s preaching. The study, which was conducted July 26–Aug. 4, surveyed 1,001 U.S. adults who identify as Protestant or non-denominational, attend church at least twice a month and attended more than one church as an adult. Researchers found that 60% of respondents changed their church due to a residential move. “The reason pastors and churchgoers talk about church switchers is because it is not a negligible number of people changing churches,” Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, said in a report on the study. “However, chronic church switching is not the norm. The biggest group of churchgoers are those who have been at the same church throughout their adult lives, and the next biggest group are those whose church changes were necessitated by moving too far to attend their previous church.”

While most respondents in the study said the main reason, they switched their church was due to a residential move, significant minorities also raised several other reasons unrelated to moving. Some 29% of churchgoers said they switched congregations because their church changed in a way they did not like. A similar percentage said they left because the church wasn’t fulfilling their needs. Another 26% said they became disenchanted with their pastor, while an additional 26% said the disenchantment was with the church. Nearly a quarter, 22%, highlighted disagreements over politics or other teachings that led them to bid goodbye to a congregation. Some 18% cited personal life changes, while 13% blamed issues related to COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdowns. Respondents further cited church closures, 2%, and other issues like a change in their beliefs toward church and religion for leaving their church. “The typical person changing churches has multiple reasons for making this change,” McConnell added. “Broadly speaking people leave a church when they disagree with change, are disgruntled or disagree with the church’s positions. It is much less common to see people leaving because their own religious beliefs changed.”

Still, while America remains a highly religious nation with seven in 10 claiming affiliation with some kind of organized religion, for the first time in nearly 80 years, fewer than half of them said they have formal membership in a specific house of worship, a Gallup analysis revealed. In his analysis of data from the General Social Survey of five-year windows in which individuals were born spanning from 1965 to 1984 and published by the Barna Group in 2019, Ryan Burge, an assistant professor of political science at Eastern Illinois University and pastor of First Baptist Church of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, showed that younger generations raised in the church weren’t typically returning to church when compared with members of the “baby boomer” generation born between 1945 and 1964. For anyone concerned with church growth, Burge says, “this should sound an alarm.” “Many pastors are standing at the pulpit on Sunday morning and seeing fewer and fewer of their former youth group members returning to the pews when they move into their late-20s and early-30s,” he explained. “No church should assume that this crucial part of the population is going to return to active membership as their parents once did.”

Source: Premier Christian News

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