Home News New Research: Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers

New Research: Churchgoers Stick Around for Theology, Not Music or Preachers

More than half (57 percent) of churchgoers say they are completely committed to continuing to attend their current church. About a quarter (28 percent) are “very much” committed, while 11 percent are moderately committed. Two percent are slightly committed, while 1 percent are not committed at all.

The more people go to church, the more committed they are to attending their same church in the future. Those who attend at least once a week are twice as likely to be completely committed to attending their church (62 percent) than people who go once or twice a month (31 percent). Those who attend once or twice a month are more likely to be moderately committed (36 percent) than those who go at least once a week (7 percent).

Churchgoers with evangelical beliefs are more likely to be completely committed (67 percent) than those who don’t have evangelical beliefs (45 percent). Baptists (60 percent) are more likely to be completely committed than Lutherans (47 percent).

About two-thirds (63 percent) of churchgoers who are 65 or older are completely committed to attending their same church in the future. That drops to 50 percent for those younger than 35.

Older churchgoers are also least likely to want to leave their church. When asked if they’ve thought about going to another church in their area, 92 percent of those 65 or older say no.

Overall, 15 percent of churchgoers say they have thought about going to another church in the past six months. Eighty-five percent say they have not.

Of those thinking about going to another church, about half (54 percent) have already visited another church. Forty-six percent have not.

“If people are thinking about leaving your church, chances are they’ve already started looking,” said McConnell. “So they’re probably halfway out the door.”

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Most feel their beliefs line up with the church

For the most part, churchgoers say they agree with their church’s teaching. About half (52 percent) say their beliefs are completely aligned with those of the church. Forty-two percent say their beliefs are mostly aligned. Fewer than 3 percent say their beliefs are slightly aligned, not aligned or they don’t know their church’s beliefs.

Education plays some role in how churchgoers view their church’s theology. Churchgoers who have graduate degrees are less likely to accept all their church’s teachings. Only a third (35 percent) say their beliefs are completely aligned with those of the church. Sixty percent say their beliefs are mostly aligned.

Two-thirds (62 percent) of churchgoers who have evangelical beliefs say they are completely aligned with their church’s theology, while a third are mostly aligned. By contrast, 39 percent of churchgoers who don’t have evangelical beliefs say they are completely aligned, and about half (53 percent) are mostly aligned.

Sixty percent of churchgoers at big churches—those with more than 1,000 attenders—say they are completely aligned with their church’s theology. That drops to 46 percent at churches with fewer than 50 attenders.

Baptists (57 percent) and nondenominational churchgoers (61 percent) are more likely to say they are completely aligned with their church’s theology than Lutherans (43 percent) or Methodists (25 percent).

Still, churchgoers don’t like to see changes in their church’s doctrine. More than half (54 percent) say they’d seriously consider leaving if church doctrine changed.

Researchers asked about other factors that might cause churchgoers to switch churches. Nearly half (48 percent) would change churches if the churchgoer moved to a new home.

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Bob Smietana is a senior writer for Nashville-based Facts & Trends magazine. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.