How do people feel about churches and why should that matter? There’s a big concern among church leaders that many Americans are turning away from congregations and church membership. This non-churched group is growing in size and diversity. The Pew Research Religious Landacape Survey showed that the fastest growing group were those who answered “None,” when asked about religious affiliation. A new survey released last week by the evangelical sponsored Lifeway Research noted that fully 2/3rds of those with no church as adults attended church regularly when they were children.
Entry Porch of St. Augustine Catholic Church, Washington DC. A sign of welcome or a barrier to entry?
The main focus of this survey, however, was to evaluate potential ways to get this select group to actually go into a church. The survey asked those in the non-churched category how likely it would be for them to attend a variety of activities if they were held in a church. It turns out, with over 2000 responses, the vast majority would not enter a church for a service or spiritually based small meeting. In contrast, a majority would attend a neighborhood meeting on safety or a community service gathering if it were held in a church.
In the coming years, even established congregations should be examining ways to engage a broader community by expanding the range of activities that take place in their facilities. This already is having an impact on new church designs with more emphasis on openness and welcoming activity spaces. Renovating or adapting existing churches can be challenging, but often even more rewarding. To simply turn churches into activity centers misses the opportunity to reach out and meet to the spiritual needs of a community. On the other hand, to ignore these changing dynamics will be at the very least a missed opportunity for many congregations.