AFFILIATION & Research Discovers Top Reasons People Join & Leave a Church

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This Pew research on Religion in Public Life find found that most young people leave their childhood religion sometime before the age of 24 … and most just drift away. The most commonly cited reason is that their “needs were not being met” or “likes and dislikes about practices and people” in the previous religious experience. This may indicate lack of need-meeting and/or cultural relevance leads to the majority of people who drift away. And, they do so in their youth and because of a lack of need-meeting and/or relevance in their childhood religious institutions.

by Pew Research, 4/27/09.

Americans change religious affiliation early and often. In total, about half of American adults have changed religious affiliation at least once during their lives. Most people who change their religion leave their childhood faith before age 24, and many of those who change religion do so more than once. These are among the key findings of a new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life. The survey documents the fluidity of religious affiliation in the U.S. and describes in detail the patterns and reasons for change. Read the full report: Faith in Flux: Changes in Religious Affiliation in the U.S. (April 27, 2009)…

One of the most striking findings from the 2007 Landscape Survey was the large number of people who have left their childhood faith. The 2007 survey found that more than one-in-four American adults (28%) have changed their religious affiliation from that in which they were raised…

Combined with the 44% of the public that currently espouses a religion different than their childhood faith, this means that roughly half of the U.S. adult population has changed religion at some point in their life.3

The survey finds that religious change begins early in life. Most of those who decided to leave their childhood faith say they did so before reaching age 24, and a large majority say they joined their current religion before reaching age 36. Very few report changing religions after reaching age 50…

The faith of most people who have changed religions was on the wane in the year or two prior to leaving their childhood religion, with few saying they had very strong faith during this time…

For instance, the most common reason for leaving Catholicism cited by former Catholics who have become Protestant is that their spiritual needs were not being met (71%). A similar number of former Catholics who have become Protestant say they left their former religion because they found another faith they liked more; nearly six-in-ten of those who changed denominational families within Protestantism also say this…

By contrast, those who have changed denominational families within Protestantism are much less likely to cite beliefs as the main reason for leaving their former religious group; the same is true for those who have become affiliated with a religion after having been raised unaffiliated. Instead, those changing within Protestantism tend to cite likes and dislikes about religious institutions, practices and people (32%) as the main reason for leaving their former faith. Life cycle changes also figure prominently for this group, with nearly three-in-ten mentioning marriage, family or other changes in their life as reasons for their departure from their childhood faith…

Chart Reasons for Leaving a Church copy

Read more at … http://www.pewforum.org/2009/04/27/interactive-reasons-for-joining-reasons-for-leaving/