Thursday, April 05, 2007

Church attendance rates by denomination

(Part 3 in an 8 post series on Christian church attendance)

There is no particular reason to assume that attendance rates are the same across denominations of Christianity in the United States. To examine that, I divided the Christians in the GSS into three categories: Evangelical Protestant, Mainline Protestant, and Catholic. (A fourth group, Black Protestant, did not have enough members to analyze here). Here are the attendance rates by denomination, in both tabular and graphical form.

Evangelical Mainline Catholic

Weekly 47.1 28.2 35.3
Monthly 18.4 18.6 16.7
Yearly 25.3 40.2 36.5
Never 9.1 12.9 11.4

As shown, there is a lot of variation in church attendance by the type of Christian. Nearly half of all Evangelical Protestants attend church weekly while only about a quarter of Mainline Protestants do. Over a third of the Catholics attend weekly.

Next: Attendance rates by denomination over time


Jay Egenes said...

Interesting stuff. One of the reasons I started thinking about this was my experience working as a student chaplain in a hospital. I was amazed at the number of patients who wanted to see a Roman Catholic priest--but didn't belong to a congregation.

They thought of themselves as Catholic but didn't have any connection to a church. This lack of connection to a church was probably also true of many people who thought of themselves as protestants--but they typically weren't picky about whether they saw a chaplain who was a member of their denomination.

Brad Wright said...

That would be another way of thinking about nominal Christians and denominations... it's not just how many nominal Christians are in each denomination, but how they differ.

Cultural Catholicism seems stronger than with Protestantism.?

Jay Egenes said...

I suspect that almost every Christian group thinks that attendance at or participation in a church is a good thing--maybe it's encouraged or strongly suggested, maybe it's even "required" in some sense.

So attendance could be one measurement of taking belief seriously.

Many Lutheran theologians, for example, think of the church as the event of the proclamation of the gospel (often in connection with baptism or communion) to a gathering of people. The church is present when the gospel is proclaimed. People come to faith or are strengthened in their faith through participation in this event.

If a person isn't present to experience the proclamation of the gospel, they won't come to faith or their faith might become weak.

Other particular groups have other theologies of why attendance is important.

Probably all Christians agree that the church is "the body of Christ", although they probably don't all agree on what that means.

If someone isn't participating in a group of Christians, can we say that they are part of the body?