Church membership has plummeted in the last two decades by nearly twenty percent. Across the United States; now, only fifty percent of U.S. adults belong to a Church and or a Religious institution. Further, demographically, the drop was recorded highest among Democrats and Hispanics.
Throughout the twentieth century, Church and or Religious membership hovered around seventy percent, with the last recording of such in 1999. Meanwhile, the number of persons with no religious affiliation jumped from eight percent to nineteen percent.
Among Americans identifying with a particular religion, there was a sharp drop in church membership among Catholics — dropping from 76% to 63% over the past two decades as clergy sex-abuse scandals buffeted the church. Membership among Protestants dropped from 73% to 67% percent over the same period.
However a significant decline in church participation was recorded among Hispanics, membership dropped from 68% to 45% since the year 2000.
Political affiliation in regards to members of the Church has changed drastically since the year 2000, remarkably, church participation for those who identify as Democrats dropped from 71% to 48%. Meanwhile, Republicans dropped from 77% to 69%.
According to Researchers
Cultural and generational factors drive the overall decline in church membership, said Nancy Ammerman, a professor of the sociology of religion at Boston University.
“Culturally, we are seeing significant erosion in the trust people have for institutions in general and churches in particular,” she said. “We are also seeing a generational shift as the ‘joiner’ older generation dies off and a generation of non-joiners comes on the scene.”
The new Gallup findings underscore that generational dynamic. Among Americans 65 and older, church membership in 2016-2018 averaged 64% percent, compared to 41% among those aged 18-29.
“The challenge is clear for churches, which depend on loyal and active members to keep them open and thriving,” wrote Gallup poll analyst Jeffrey Jones. “How do they find ways to convince some of the unaffiliated religious adults in society to make a commitment to a particular house of worship of their chosen faith?”
“These trends are not just numbers, but play out in the reality that thousands of U.S. churches are closing each year,” Jones added. “Religious Americans in the future will likely be faced with fewer options for places of worship, and likely less convenient ones, which could accelerate the decline in membership even more.”
The generational dynamic is a symptom of an underlying problem, more than the lack of trust in institutions, the Church, over the last twenty years, has coped with an onslaught of negative media attention. Further, not just the Church in general, but those who hold a Christian Worldview have come under intense scrutiny.
The Media and Social Media have played a vast role, in peer-pressuring Church participants to avoid religion altogether. In addition, the rise in technology and social media has given persons the ability to become complacent in regards to attendance and participation. Whereas, throughout the twentieth century, technology in this magnitude was not as prevalent.
Furthermore, how the church has responded culturally to the younger generation has played a drastic role in regards to the decline of church membership and participation. The majority of mainstream churches have slapped fancy music and lights around their members instead of delving deeply into teaching, which is what the younger generation needs.