Today, nearly 1/4 of Americans do not affiliate with a faith group, and church leaders across the country are growing concerned on how to combat declining church attendance rates. Deseret News interviewed CRCC’s Senior Director of Research and Evaluation Richard Flory on why Americans are increasingly distancing themselves from religious affiliation.
The story is not as simple as Americans outright rejecting God’s existence, and some embrace practices like prayer and meditation while rejecting organized religion, Flory told the Desert News. Here’s an excerpt:
“If you dig down, a number of those people … say they believe in God, whatever that means to them,” he says.
In other words, it’s not always lack of belief that’s keeping people away from church. Sometimes, it’s “dissatisfaction with the delivery system,” he added.
Attending worship was once an integral part of American life. Stores and restaurants would close on Sundays, a day for worship and rest.
That’s changed amid the rise in people who claim no religion, Flory said. In his research on faith communities, he’s found that even many churchgoers feel only loosely connected to their religious routines.
People think of worship as “just another part of their life, like taking their kid to soccer practice or going to work,” he said. Churchgoing friends have told him that few people in the pews are listening closely to 45-minute sermons.
Dissatisfaction with organized religion is impossible for faith leaders to ignore. But most are still slow to shake up their worship routines or launch new service programs, Flory said.
“There are a lot of things that fight against making changes, including inertia,” he said. “People think, ‘We’ve never done it that way.'”