Church Attracts the
Young, Turns Off Women & Oldsters
Conventional wisdom is
that religion is particularly attractive to women and older
Americans. However, new Barna Polls provide radically different
by women sank by 11% since 1991, to 44%. “A majority of women no
longer attend church services in a typical week,” Pollster
George Barna reports.
Bible reading by
women fell 10%, and Sunday school attendance dropped 7%.
“The only religious
behavior that increased among women in the past 20 years was
becoming unchurched,” which jumped a startling 17%.
By contrast, “Baby Busters,”
young adults born from 1965 through 1983, increased their
Bible reading by 9%, reaching 41% in
2011, and their volunteering at a church doubled from 10% to
19%. Making a personal commitment to Jesus Christ also became
more important among Busters in the last 20 years; 60% have done
so today, a rise of 12%.
On the other hand, Baby
Boomers (born 1946-1964) are decidedly less involved. Church
attendance plummeted by 12%; Sunday school attendance fell by 9%
and volunteering dropped by a third from 28% in 1991 to only 18%
in 2011. The percentage of unchurched Boomers nearly doubled,
rising dramatically by 18%, with 41% who now do not go to church
except to attend weddings and funerals.
What about the Elders, those
born before 1946? They are getting bored with church too. Their
unchurched numbers jumped by 8% so that three out of ten Elders
now do not attend, Barna reports. Their Bible reading outside of
church fell by 8% from 54% to 46%. Sunday school attendance fell
Traditionally, women have
been the backbone of most congregations. A higher percent were
members, church attenders and volunteers, while men lagged far
behind. No longer. Barna reports that the religious gender gap
has largely closed.
Twenty years ago 50% of
women read the Bible outside of church vs. only 40% of men.
That pattern has reversed, with 41% of men and only 40% of women
now reading Scripture! “The elimination of that gap is what is
striking,” comments George Barna.
In fact, though church
attendance and membership is down, two out of five men read the
Bible outside of church today, the same as two decades ago.
reduction in the difference between the genders: Men were 12%
more likely to be unchurched than women in 1991, but the gap is
now only 4%.
“The frightening reality
for churches is that the people they have relied upon as the
backbone of the church can no longer be assumed to be available
and willing when needed, as they were in days past,” Barna
The ethnic group
experiencing the greatest changes, however, were Hispanics.
Their church attendance plunged from 54% in a typical week
twenty years ago to a dismal 33% this year. Adult Sunday school
attendance nearly disappeared, falling from 28% to just 9%.
Hispanic Bible reading
used to be 55% but is only 30% today, only about half of what it
had been. Conversely, the percentage of Latinos who are
unchurched doubled from 20% to 40% today.
By contrast, blacks are
more likely than whites or Hispanics to say their religious
beliefs are very important in their life today, to believe that
the Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it
teaches, and are more likely to have made a personal commitment
to Jesus Christ. Blacks are also more likely to share their
religious beliefs with people who might believe differently,
than are whites and Hispanics.
also more likely to attend church, Sunday school, to read the
Bible and to volunteer at their church in an average week.
Finally, blacks are only half as likely as whites or Hispanics
to be unchurched.
Weekly white church
attendance fell over the past two decades from 46% to 39%; adult
Sunday school attendance fell 9%; volunteering dropped a similar
8% from 26% down to 18%; and the percentage who believe the
Bible is accurate in what it teaches dropped by 7%.
Religious polling began
with George Gallup in the 1930s, and grew under the leadership
of his son, George Gallup, Jr. who has now retired.
George Barna has
demonstrated over the past 20 years that he has picked up the
mantle of religious polling and carried it to new levels of
sophistication and insight. He is a prolific author, whose
latest book, “Futurecast,” offers in-depth analysis of this