by Bob Smietana, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 6/26/18.
But don’t mess with a church’s beliefs or there may be an exodus, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.
The study of Protestant churchgoers found most are committed to staying at their church over the long haul. But more than half say they would strongly consider leaving if the church’s beliefs changed.
Pastors often worry about changing church music and setting off a “worship war,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. But few say they would leave over music.
Churchgoers are much more concerned about their church’s beliefs.
“Mess with the music and people may grumble,” he said. “Mess with theology and they’re out the door.”
CHURCHGOERS STAY PUT
LifeWay Research surveyed 1,010 Protestant churchgoers—those who attend services at least once a month—to see how strongly they are tied to their local congregations.
Researchers found most churchgoers stay put.
Thirty-five percent have been at their church between 10 and 24 years. Twenty-seven percent have been there for 25 years or more. Twenty-one percent have been there less than five years, while 17 percent have been at the same church for between five and nine years.
Lutherans (52 percent), Methodists (40 percent) and Baptists (31 percent) are most likely to have been at their church for 25 years or more. Fewer nondenominational (11 percent) or Assemblies of God/Pentecostal churchgoers (13 percent) have such long tenure.
About two-thirds (63 percent) of churchgoers who are 65 or older are completely committed to attending their same church in the future. That drops to 50 percent for those younger than 35.
Older churchgoers are also least likely to want to leave their church. When asked if they’ve thought about going to another church in their area, 92 percent of those 65 or older say no.
Overall, 15 percent of churchgoers say they have thought about going to another church in the past six months. Eighty-five percent say they have not.
Of those thinking about going to another church, about half (54 percent) have already visited another church. Forty-six percent have not.
“If people are thinking about leaving your church, chances are they’ve already started looking,” said McConnell. “So they’re probably halfway out the door.”