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Survey Shows What Americans Look for Most When Church Shopping


When searching for a church, Americans are looking for two main things: quality of preaching and a congregation that offers a warm welcome.

Half of American adults have looked for a new congregation at some point in their lives, according to a Pew Research study released this month.

Of those, 83 percent say the quality of preaching and the tone set by the church leaders are the top most important factors in finding a new fellowship.

When searching for a new congregation, Americans value quality of sermons and feeling welcomed

Three-quarters placed importance on worship styles when making their decision about membership, while seven in 10 said it depended on location. Seventy-six percent of Catholics place the importance of their choice on location.

Others based their decision on the quality of the children's program, having friends and family at the church, or volunteer opportunities. Seven-in-10 also say they talked with members of the congregation or to friends or colleagues about their decision.

Despite the advancement in technology, statistics show that face-to-face interaction is still the deciding factor when choosing a place of worship.

The study also explored why people are making the transition. At least one-third of respondents said relocation is the most common reason for searching for a new congregation.

Fewer people said they moved because of disagreements with the church (11 percent) or because of marriage or divorce (11 percent).

One in five adults (19 percent) said they had looked for a new congregation for other reasons (changing beliefs, or social or practical reasons.)

Other points from survey show the percentage of Americans who attend church and those who no longer follow a religion.

  • 51 percent attend religious services regularly (once or twice a month). Twenty-three percent of this group said they have always attended religious services regularly.
  • 27 perecent of all U.S. adults say they now attend religious services more often than they did before their adult lives, while 22 percent say they go less than at other times in their life
  • 49 percent of American adults now attend religious services (a few times a year, rarely or never.)
  • Eight-in-10 religiously unaffiliated Americans – the religious "nones" (self-identified atheists, and agnostics) and people who describe their religion as "nothing in particular" - were raised with a religious affiliation.
  • Most atheists say a lack of belief caused them to become religiously unaffiliated, but fewer than half of switchers who now describe their religion as "nothing in particular" say a lack of belief is the reason they do not identify with a religion.
  • Americans are evenly divided between those who thought about switching religions or denominations when they looked for a new church (48 percent) and those who considered congregations in the denomination with which they already identified (49 percent).

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