The Economy and Church Attendance

During the Great Depression, church attendance surged as Americans turned to faith in difficult days.
The New York Times recently reported that worship attendance is surging as a result of the economic downturn.

Despite some news reports to the contrary, a review of almost 300,000 interviews conducted by Gallup so far in 2008 shows no evidence that church attendance in America has been increasing late this year as a result of bad economic times. In September, October, November, and so far in December, about 42% of Americans reported that they attended church weekly or almost every week, exactly the same as the percentage who reported attending earlier in the year.

Here at Hayward Wesleyan, our worship attendance has declined 5% from last year. We are seeing two things:

1) The econmic struggle has been a catalyst for some new people to come, and some absentees to return. They are seeking a spiritual center and turning to God for help and strength.

2) At the same time, several "fringe" people are choosing to stay home. Many drive several miles to attend church, and when the purse is tightened, they have to choose their activities with more discretion. (Actually, I shouldn't say the people are fringe. Instead, the church is fringe to them.)

Those who view church attendance as a "fringe activity" will let it go when they are forced to make hard choices based on the pocketbook. For instance, they will be sure to get their son to hockey practice, but attending worship services is optional.

Generally speaking, the committed folks who consider church attendance to be central and foundational, will continue attending church regularly, regardless of what happens with the economy.
One other thought: Now, more than ever -- the church needs to go to the people, rather than waiting for the people to come to the church. For instance, we are providing Christmas gifts for 150 children in our community who wouldn't have anything otherwise. Also, we're hosting a free Christmas Dinner for anybody who wants to come.
Still, I'm hoping we can get our absentees back to church. Sunday mornings have been awesome lately -- better than ever, and I feel bad that they're missing out.


Steve U. said…
Mark: I am fginding pretty much the same thing even in our little church. Our attendance is down. We have seen new people but not because of the economy. We have lost people because of the economy.

I have found that giving to people, while something we do because we lo0ve them, rarely brings people to church or keeps them in church.

It does seem to me that we need to go to them and to tell them about jesus and His love for them. This depression??? time seems to be the perfect time for that. We need to be working on evangelism, just like you taught us and He commanded us, now more than ever.
Steve U. said…
Sorry for thew typo's. I'm not with it this morning. Steve
Dave Q said…
Hi Mark, I really like the comment about the church being fringe to some people, rather than some people being finge members. It has got me thinking...thanks.

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