by the Hartford Institute for Church Research, retrieved from http://hirr.hartsem.edu/research/fastfacts/fast_facts.html#sizecong, 11/9/16.
A: For years, the Gallup Research Organization has come up with a consistent figure — 40 percent of all Americans, or roughly 118 million people, who said they attended worship on the previous weekend. Recently, sociologists of religion have questioned that figure, saying Americans tend to exaggerate how often they attend.
By actually counting the number of people who showed up at representative sample of churches, two researchers, Kirk Hadaway and Penny Marler found that only 20.4 percent of the population, or half the Gallup figure, attended church each weekend.
As added proof for the accuracy of this smaller percentage of churchgoers, if 20.4% of Americans (approximately 63 million in 2010) attended the nation’s 350,000 congregations weekly then the average attendance would be 180 people per congregation which is almost exactly the figure that numerous research studies have found.
Want to know more?
- For an excellent summary of this research, read the May 6, 1998 article by C. Kirk Hadaway and P.L. Marler Did You Really Go To Church This Week: Behind the Poll Data, in The Christian Century, http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=237.
- See also an article about their work on the church attendance gap at http://www.hirr.hartsem.edu/about/news_and_notes_ vol4no1.html