Women and African-Americans are more involved in church group activities than other American Christian demographics, according to a recent Barna report. The survey also found that older, married Christians and those from the South are also more likely to participate in church activities.
The survey looked at different types of expressions of “group faith,” such as church attendance, small groups, adult Sunday school programs, church volunteering and house church involvement. Women were consistently more likely to be involved in all these types of activities. They make up more than half (53 percent) of church attendees. Some 60 percent of those who attend small groups and 57 percent of church volunteers are women.
Home churches are the only place where men (56 percent) are more likely to be involved than women.
Black Christians also tend to be more involved in group activities than Christians from other ethnic groups. While African-Americans make up 13 percent of the adult population, they account for 27 percent of the nation’s small-group activities and almost one-third (30 percent) of house church attendees. White Christians were significantly less involved, and Hispanic Christians tend to abstain from church group activities.
Living up to some stereotypes, the survey also found that older, married adults are much more likely to be involved than younger, single adults. Two-thirds of those who attend church, go to small groups and participate in Sunday school are married, as well as 69 percent of church volunteers. From an age perspective, two-thirds of small group attendees and three-fifths of church volunteers and Sunday school goers were ages 45 and older.
Small groups had the oldest median age (56) of any of the activities in the study. This could make it challenging for churches with a heavy reliance on small-group strategies to reach younger members. This includes young, married adults with children, who were the least likely to attend a small group.
Christians from the South were also more likely to be involved than those in other parts of the country, especially the Northeast. Evangelicals and Protestants were also much more likely to be involved than Catholics.
Christians in larger congregations (more than 500 people) tend to be involved in different ways than Christians in medium-size congregations. They are more likely to attend small groups and to volunteer. Christians from medium-size churches (101 to 499 people) were more likely to attend Sunday school classes.
“The one-size-fits-all maxim does not adequately describe Americans’ religious participation,” said David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group. “Because there are so many needs and preferences, faith leaders must acknowledge that their churches and faith communities cannot be ‘all things to all people.’ Clarity in vision and purpose is crucial to providing relevant and transformational settings where people can grow spiritually.” [barna.org, 6/28/10]