Many of us are aware that church attendance has been decreasing over the years. In fact, according to this article, a survey taken in 2020 found that …
[T]he average congregation size across Christian denominations is less than half what it was in 2000 — down to 65 from 137. It also found that on average, a third of churchgoers are 65 or older, twice that age group’s representation in the general population. These numbers held true for Protestants, Evangelicals and Catholics alike. Only congregations of other faith traditions — including Islam, Baha’i and Judaism — are seeing increases, the survey said.
In fact, a political science professor mentioned in the article believes that … about a third of the country’s 350,000 Christian congregations are “on the brink of extinction.”
As many of us have heard –and the article confirms– this sharp uptick is due to the number of younger Americans who report no religious affiliation — a group known as the “nones.”
Some have expressed concern over this reduction because it could decrease the number of community services that churches provide, such as food banks, help for troubled teens, addiction treatment, and other programs. Others wonder what will happen to the empty church buildings themselves. Apparently in larger cities, they are being turned into luxury condos or offices, but in poor communities and/or rural areas, they just sit there. Empty.
The article reports that one church in Oklahoma that once drew hundreds has now dwindled down to about 30 people for Sunday services.
(Notice the picture in the article that illustrates the reduced number of worshippers.)
Of course from the viewpoint of some, all this is a good thing. Money contributed by congregants to maintain brick and mortar church buildings, the home and salary of clergy –and in Catholic churches, the garb and various sacramental items of the priesthood– could be far better spent helping the folks that Jesus himself talked about … the disadvantaged, the poor, the needy (all those folks so many of “the faithful” tend to overlook).
While most of us reading this will likely never see the total disappearance of churches, one can’t help but be encouraged that the hold religion has on so many may be slowly, but surely, disappearing.
Or at the very least … loosening its hold.
Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay