Some churchgoers would leave if the preaching style changed (19 percent), if the pastor left (12 percent) or if a family member wanted a new church (10 percent). Nine percent say they would leave over politics. Fewer would leave if they didn’t feel needed (6 percent), if the music style changed (5 percent), if they had a conflict (4 percent) or if a friend stopped attending (3 percent).
The survey shows churchgoers care about doctrine, said McConnell.
“Still, pastors can’t assume everyone in the pews agrees with their preaching,” McConnell said. “Overall, 94 percent believe most or all of their church’s teaching. But there’s still substantial wiggle room.
“Every time a pastor gets up to preach, there’s a good chance more than a few people in the pews are going to disagree,” he said.
Most find church programs helpful
Researchers also looked at how effective churches are in helping people grow spiritually.
Most churchgoers think their church is doing a good job. Three-quarters (76 percent) think their church has been either extremely helpful (36 percent) or very helpful (40 percent) in their spiritual growth. Sixteen percent say the church is moderately helpful.
Relatively few say the church has not been helpful (1 percent) in their spiritual growth or are not sure (2 percent).
Churchgoers did have some suggestions on ways churches can help them grow. Among them:
27 percent want their church to help them understand more about God and the Bible.
20 percent want their church to help them find new ways to serve.
19 percent want their church to provide more Bible study groups.
16 percent want their church to help them get to know more people in church.
14 percent say their church could provide forums to answer their spiritual questions.
13 percent want their church to give them more chances to serve.
13 percent want their church to provide worship experiences that fit their needs.
9 percent want their church to provide more interaction with the pastor.
8 percent want their church to provide them with a mentor.
Even though most churchgoers are staying put and are relatively happy, there’s some reason for concern, McConnell said.
At any given church, about 15 percent of the congregation is thinking about leaving. If they go, the church could suffer.
“The average church in the United States has less than 100 attenders,” McConnell said. “Losing 10 or 15 people could make a huge impact.”
LifeWay Research conducted the study Aug. 22–30, 2017. The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population.