The Number of Churchless Americans Has Jumped by Nearly One-Third in Just 20 Years.
A new book, ‘Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them,’ by George Barna and David Kinnaman, provides the details behind the decline.
- In the early 1990s, about two out of 10 U.S. adults were churchless.
- In the early 2000s, it was three in 10.
- Today, the churchless make up nearly half the adult population.
In spite of America’s “Christian” self-description, there is a growing sense among North American Christ-followers that the culture is changing faster than we can keep up with or respond to—and we’re not always sure how to live faithfully in a world that feels like it’s headed off the rails. Not too many years ago, church attendance and basic Bible literacy were the cultural norm. Being a Christian didn’t feel like swimming against the cultural current. But now?
The book ‘Churchless’ confirms that the world has, indeed, altered in significant ways during the last few decades. It’s not just your imagination. Real data confirm how drastically the moral, social and spiritual lives of Americans have changed and are changing.
Learn more about ‘Churchless’ and/or purchase the book, here.
If Unchurched Americans Were Their Own Nation, They’d Be the Eighth Largest on Earth
- About 156 million U.S. adults and children are churchless.
- Churchless Americans = Bigger Than Canada, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa & New Zealand . . . Combined
- Only China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the churchgoing half of the United States are larger.
The raw number of unchurched people in the United States is staggering. Most of what gets counted as “church growth” is actually transfer growth, rather than conversion growth—that is, people transferring their allegiance from one church to another, not transitioning from non-Christian to Christ-follower. If churches hope to grow by discipling new believers, we must improve our ability to attract those who are intentionally avoiding a connection with a church.
Younger = More Churchless
- The younger you are, the more likely you are to never have been to church.
- More than half of Mosaics (born between 1984 and 2002) are unchurched, compared to one-third of Elders (born before 1946).
- Twenty years ago, 18 percent of skeptics—that is, atheists and agnostics—were under 30. Today, 34 percent are Mosaics.
The younger the generation, the more post-Christian it is. Nearly half of Mosaics—also called Millennials—qualify as post-Christian (48%), compared to two-fifths of Busters or Gen-Xers (40%), one-third of Boomers (35%) and one-quarter of Elders (28%). Tracking data allows us to trace the increase of anti-church attitudes and behaviors over the past 50 years. And as today’s young adults show, there is no end in sight.
But . . . There’s Good News, Too
- Three-quarters of unchurched people own a Bible.
- Six in ten churchless adults prayed in the past week.
- Two-thirds say they tried to grow spiritually in the past month by talking with family and friends about faith or watching religious TV programming.
Over the past three decades, Barna Group has conducted tens of thousands of interviews with unchurched people to discover their hurts, needs and hopes, with the aim of equipping the church to become more effective at connecting with them.
Churchless is an up-to-the-minute snapshot of the perceptions, beliefs, behaviors, choices, experiences, expectations and hopes of a nationally representative body of churchless adults. Based on our data, Churchless compares the backgrounds, behaviors and beliefs of the churched and the unchurched.
But more than that, Churchless points to how you can build spiritually meaningful relationships with your unchurched family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. Because the truth is, most of them are already looking for a connection with God.
Below, key statistics found within the book ‘Churchless.’