Influence

 the shape of leadership

Churchgoers Would Leave Over Doctrine

This issue could be a deal-breaker for more than half

Influence Magazine on June 29, 2018

Churchgoers may complain about changes in the music or preaching style, but few would switch places of worship for those reasons, a new study from LifeWay Research reveals. However, people are less tolerant of changes in doctrine.

More than half (54 percent) of U.S. churchgoing Protestants surveyed said they would seriously consider finding a new church if their current one changed its doctrine. This exceeded even the share of churchgoers saying they would switch places of worship if they moved to a new residence (48 percent).

Only 12 percent would jump ship simply because a pastor left, and just 5 percent would leave over changes in music style. Other reasons people might consider shopping for a new church include a family member’s desire for change (10 percent); a difference in political views (9 percent); not feeling needed (6 percent); relational conflict (4 percent); and friends no longer attending (3 percent).

Most churchgoers say their beliefs are completely aligned (52 percent) or mostly aligned (42 percent) with their church’s teaching.

When asked how their church could help them grow, 27 percent said they want to understand more about God and the Bible.

More than a third of churchgoers (35 percent) have attended their church for 10 to 24 years. Nearly 3 in 10 (27 percent) have attended the same place of worship for 25 years or more. Among Assemblies of God/Pentecostal adherents, 13 percent have attended their church for 25 years or more.

Overall, most people are loyal to their church. Just 15 percent of churchgoers say they have considered going to another church in the last six months.

About three-quarters of attendees say their church is extremely helpful (36 percent) or very helpful (40 percent) in nurturing their spiritual growth.

When asked how their church could help them grow, 27 percent said they want to understand more about God and the Bible. Other answers included the following:

  • 20 percent want their church to help them find new ways to serve.
  • 19 percent want their church to provide more Bible study groups.
  • 16 percent want their church to help them get to know more people in the congregation.
  • 14 percent say their church could provide forums to answer their spiritual questions.
  • 13 percent desire more opportunities to serve.
  • 13 percent crave worship experiences that fit their needs.
  • 9 percent want their church to provide more interaction with the pastor.
  • 8 percent want their church to provide them with a mentor.

The research group, based in Nashville, Tennessee, surveyed Protestant and nondenominational U.S. churchgoers aged 18 and older who attend services at least once a month.

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