Yawning Your Way Through Worship

It’s something we have felt for a long time, but a book published in 2014 by George Barna and David Kinnaman, Churchless[1], confirms fewer and fewer Americans are attending church. In the 1990’s, 30% of Americans were classified as “unchurched.” That is “someone who has not attended a Christian church service, other an a special event such as a wedding or funeral, at any time in the past six months.” In the 2000’s that number rose to 33%, and in 2014, 43% of Americans were classified at unchurched.

Here is the breakdown for 2014:

  • 10% are “Purely Unchurched – they do not currently and have never attended a church.”
  • 33% are “De-Churched” – They once were active in church but are no longer.”
  • 8% are “Minimally Churched” the attend church infrequently and unpredictably.”
  • 49% are “Actively Churched” and Barna defines that as “Attend church at least once a month.”

The two groups classified as “Churched” are interesting, but the group that worries me most are the “De-Churched.” What happened? Why aren’t they part of our fellowship? I was relieved to learn, according to Barna, that we aren’t actively driving people out of our churches, but the sad truth is, we are boring them to death.

“Our surveys reveal that about one-quarter (24 percent) of the unchurched believe the typical church experience is boring or tiresome. In addition, they don’t see church as a place of meaningful community.”

Barna and I agree the answer isn’t to put on a better show – we don’t need to add pyrotechnics and improve our choreography – what we need is to “do things in and for your community that are valuable, visible, and memorable. … What does your church offer to the churched and churchless people that is too valuable, too meaningful, for them to ignore?”

That is not to say we must focus entirely on community service (as important as that is), but we need to learn to help people discover how relevant a relationship with God and one another is. “Churches should be places where we experience God’s presence in the company of his people. … People don’t come to church for the carnival rides. They come to meet God. … Our studies consistently show a large majority of people leave their church’s service without feeling as though they have connected with God.”

Brothers and sisters, as we gather for worship, fasten your seat belts because we have come to encounter God!

[1] Churchless: understanding today’s unchurched and how to connect with them: based on surveys by Barna Group/ Barna Group; George Barna and David Kinnaman, general editors, 2014.