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Ryan Burge: The Biggest Reason Why People Are Leaving Church

Ryan Burge
Credit: Nicole Fields Photography. Courtesy of Dr. Ryan Burge

Dr. Ryan Burge is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and the Graduate Coordinator at Eastern Illinois University. His research focuses largely on the interaction of religiosity and political behavior, especially in the American context. Ryan is also a pastor and the author of “The Nones: Where They Came From, Who They Are, and Where They Are Going” and “20 Myths about Religion and Politics in America.” He contributed research to “The Great Dechurching” by Michael Graham and Jim Davis. Check out our interview with them here: “Michael Graham and Jim Davis: What ‘The Great Dechurching’ Means for Church Leaders.”

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Key Questions for Ryan Burge

-Why are people dropping out of church?

-How do pastors develop programming and messaging in a way that can connect what seems like a very disparate group of people?

-Why do people come back to church?

-What does the landscape of religion look like in the U.S.?

Key Quotes From Ryan Burge

“The biggest reason why people leave church is because they moved.”

“There’s very logistical reasons why people leave religion behind. Things like got married or got divorced or we had kids or I moved or I took a new job. Those reasons actually are probably more important for the average person than things like politics or religion.”

“People tend to slowly drift away from religion over time.”

“[People who disconnect from religion] just felt like religion, for whatever reason, was not a good fit for them. And so they drift towards people, drift towards places where they fit in, they feel like they belong. And for a lot of people, especially who have kids, travel sports has become a major part of their life.”

“I think what’s happening largely is [the dechurched] have found ways to replace religion by picking these different communities that tend to be more like them.”

“If you really want to see ground zero for the ditching, I think it’s older Millennials or younger Generation X.”