Americans who say they have no religious preference are almost entirely responsible for a continuing slump in church attendance, the most recent General Social Survey finds.
A record 21 percent of Americans claim no religious preference, a number that has grown steadily from 8 percent in 1990, with no evidence of a slowdown. And 88 percent of those with no religious preference say they attend religious services no more than once a year.
Those who identify with a faith attend services about as often as they ever did. “We see little evidence of changing religious behavior among Americans who identify with a religion,” the study’s authors note.
But regardless of where they are on a Sunday morning, they still may be praying.
Though Americans are less likely than ever to be churchgoers (just over 4 in 10 report attending worship services at least once a month), most say they pray every day.
The GSS found 57 percent report praying daily, a rate that has remained relatively stable since the survey began asking the question in 1983.
Nearly 75 percent say they pray at least weekly. Even among those who say they never attend religious services, nearly 30 percent report praying at least once a day, as do 24 percent of those who claim no religious preference.
These numbers are similar to the most recent Pew Research data released, which shows an increase in the religiously unaffiliated and a drop in church attendance and prayer.
The numbers perhaps reflect a shift in Americans’ view of religion—it’s becoming more personal and private rather than practiced in community, which is a dangerous path.
But Christians should see this as an opportunity to seek out their unchurched neighbors and friends. Most likely they will be open to talking about spiritual things and prayer might be a good place to start.
In a previous article, Ed Stetzer looked at evangelism research and concluded, “The harvest seems at least willing to listen while the workers don’t seem as willing to talk.”