America Has Fewer Church Members

For the past 80 years, the Gallup Poll has been asking people about their faith.

Consistently through the decades, they’ve found that most Americans are a member of a church. In 1940, when they began, a solid 70% identified themselves as church members. The numbers held fairly steady through the mid 70’s when a flight decline emerged, dropping to 68% by 1990, down to 50% by 2018.

In 2021, the number is 47%, the first time is fallen before than one-half threshold. But Dr. Shannon Holzer, an Asst. Professor of Government and Philosophy at Houston Baptist University, says the numbers reflect a modern trend and have more to do with semantics than the number of people attending houses of worship. “Many new churches, such as ‘seeker sensitive’ churches, a lot of the megachurches, they’ve just forgone with the idea of having membership,” he says. It has more to do with organizational models being adopted by many large churches that don’t identify by Christian denomination. America remains a largely Christian nation, he contends. “America is still a place that on every given Sunday church parking lots are full. America is still by and large a religious nation, and people do believe in God.”

Gallup found a strong relationship to age in those identifying as church members, the older one is the more likely they are to be a member. 66% of those born before 1946, now in their mid 70’s, say they are church members, while only 50% of Gen X and 36% of Millennials chose the label.

photo: Getty Images

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