As we continue to share research in the State of the Church 2020, a year-long project exploring the current challenges and opportunities facing the Church, we aim to shed more light on why Americans’ relationship to churches is changing and help Christians discern a faithful direction forward.
Barna Group has been gathering survey data on the long-term shifts that have occurred in the United States over the last several decades. In this report, we explore data collected among 96,171 surveys over more than 20 years, giving us powerful insight into the changes happening in terms of faith practice, such as church attendance, Bible-reading and prayer. What emerges is a nuanced portrait of people trying to figure out what faith means in the 21st Century and the role of Christianity in their lives. And while key markers of religiosity have diminished overall, there are some signs of steadiness among committed Christians that stand in contrast.
Currently, Just One in Four Americans Is a Practicing Christian
To get a broad view of the role of Christianity in the American Church, as well as those outside of it, let’s start by looking at the manner in which Americans relate to Christianity, using three segments: practicing Christians, non-practicing Christians and those who are not Christians.
Practicing Christians identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives and have attended church within the past month.
Non-practicing Christians are self-identified Christians who do not qualify as practicing.
Non-Christians are U.S. adults who do not identify as Christian.
The first and perhaps most significant change we’ll explore is that practicing Christians are now a much smaller segment of the entire population. In 2000, 45 percent of all those sampled qualified as practicing Christians. That share has consistently declined over the last 19 years. Now, just one in four Americans (25%) is a practicing Christian. In essence, the share of practicing Christians has nearly dropped in half since 2000.
“While the decline of Christian engagement is real, the data remind us that one-quarter of the population qualifies as a practicing Christian. This represents more than 80 million adults.” – @davidkinnaman https://t.co/GozcKywPBH
— Barna Group (@BarnaGroup) March 9, 2020