We hear a lot about the "nones" these days: Americans who claim no connection to any particular faith. We'll hear a lot more too, as recent studies document this ever-expanding slice of the American demographic pie. We hear less, however, about the nones as individuals. But like any pastor, I’ve known more than a few in my time. At 20 percent of society, they are literally everybody's friends and neighbors.
knew that mainline congregants tend to be older than the general population.
The average member is about 58, whereas the average American is age 38. The
latest survey from Hartford Seminary fills in the
picture with this piece of data: in more than half (52.7 percent) of mainline
Protestant congregations, a third or more of the members are 65 years old or
Do people join a church because they share its members' beliefs? This has become the putative
ideal, the only pure motivation for church affiliation. But I have seldom heard it voiced at our new members' class.
A large majority of Americans consider Sunday the most enjoyable day of the week, according to a 1998 Gallup poll. Few Century readers would wish for a different answer. However, as autumn once again evokes rueful ministerial jokes about ending worship in time for the congregation to get home for the football game, some may think that Sunday has become a little too enjoyable.
When I sit in church on Sunday mornings, I sometimes look
around at the other congregants and ask myself, "Why are these people here? Why
did they choose to come to church?" Some people prefer staying at home to
leisurely read the Sunday paper, or go out for a relaxed Sunday brunch. Why
have these people given up their precious spare time to be here?
Many people assume that there has been a steady decline in worship
attendance for all the mainline denominations since the mid-1960s—the
era when most of them began to see their memberships decline. But
trends in attendance have actually followed their own