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Church attendance continues to fall, now below pre-pandemic levels: poll

Jun 27, 2023


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The way Americans practice their faith is undergoing a transformation, as traditional religious institutions have witnessed a decline in attendance and individuals explore alternative avenues to express their spirituality. While a significant portion of the population identifies as religious, only about one in four Americans currently attend religious services, according to a recent Gallup poll.

The impact of the pandemic on church attendance has been profound, with levels dropping as low as 29% of the U.S. population, including both physical and virtual attendees. Surprisingly, even though the pandemic offered new opportunities for individuals to engage with religious services online, the number of people affiliated with a church, whether in-person or virtually, hit an all-time low since the survey’s inception in 1939. However, a closer examination reveals that the decline in church attendance was a trend that had been ongoing for years prior to the pandemic.

“It is not clear if the pandemic is the cause of the reduced attendance or if the decline is a continuation of trends that were already in motion,” Jeffrey M. Jones, a senior editor for Gallup, wrote.

In the 1950s, religious service attendance reached its peak, with one in every two Americans participating in religious gatherings at churches, synagogues, mosques, or temples. By 2012, that number had declined to 40%, indicating a 10-point dip over a 60-year span. Comparatively, from 2012 to 2022, church attendance experienced another 10-point decline over just a 10-year period, bringing the percentage of churchgoers to a mere 30%.

Although the pandemic further exacerbated the decrease in church attendance, the preceding years already indicated a significant shift in religious engagement.

While the pandemic resulted in an all-time low for church attendance, the trend leading up to this point suggests that the country was already headed in that direction, with the health emergency merely hastening the process.

With a declining congregation and approximately 5% of followers participating remotely, churches find themselves with only 25% of the population walking through their doors. This reality necessitates a careful examination of how religious institutions can adapt to changing times.

Despite the decline in attendance at organized religious services, a substantial 76% of the U.S. population still holds religious beliefs. However, the majority of individuals choose to practice their faith in ways that extend beyond the traditional confines of religious institutions.

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