Last week the Ministry Report highlighted a New York Times article stating that the current economic downturn was resulting in a nationwide church growth trend. But pollsters from Gallup say not so fast.
According to a massive review of almost 300,000 Gallup interviews in 2008, the bad economic times aren’t affecting church attendance in the slightest bit. Data from the fall months—including part of December—shows that 42 percent of Americans attend church weekly or almost weekly, which is exactly the same percentage as last year (and, coincidentally, 1 percent lower than early 2008).
“It is … possible that certain specific churches or even types of churches (such as the evangelical churches featured in the New York Times article) have seen an increase in attendance,” says Gallup’s Frank Newport, “but that on a percentage basis, these represent such a tiny part of the universe of all churches that this increase is not reflected in broad, national church attendance percentages. … If there has been some alteration in church attendance caused by the economic bad times, it does not appear to have been of sufficient magnitude or scope to have altered ongoing church attendance patterns in the overall U.S. population.” [gallup.com, 12/17/08]