Nashville, Tenn. | Americans who don’t go to church are happy to talk about religion and often think about the meaning of life. However, they’re less likely to be interested in going to a worship service, according to a new survey by LifeWay Research.
“Unchurched Americans aren’t hostile to faith,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “They just don’t think church is for them.”
For the survey, “unchurched” means those who have not attended a worship service in the last six months, outside of a holiday or special occasion like a wedding. Among their characteristics:
• 67% are white
• 53% are male
• 47% have a high school diploma or less
• 62% went to church regularly as a child
• 32% consider themselves nonreligious
• One in five identifies as Protestant, one in four as Catholic
Few are turned off by conversations about faith, McConnell said. Nearly half of unchurched Americans (47%) say they discuss religion freely if the topic comes up. A third (31%) say they listen without responding, while 11% change the subject.
Only 35% say someone has ever explained the benefits of being a Christian to them.
Christians may be reluctant to talk about their faith out of fear of offending their friends, McConnell noted. But the survey found that fear is unfounded.
“Unchurched folks are not being overwhelmed by Christians talking about their faith,” McConnell said. “If faith is important to you, then your friends will be interested in hearing about it.”
Researchers also looked at the kinds of activities unchurched Americans might be interested in as well as methods for inviting them to church: 62% said they would attend a church meeting about neighborhood safety, while around half would take part in a community service event (51%), concert (45% ), sports or exercise program (46%), or neighborhood get-together (45%) at a church.
Fewer are interested in attending a worship service (35%), recovery group (25%) or seminar on a spiritual topic (24%) if invited.
When it comes to church invitations, a personal touch works better than a sales pitch. More than half (55%) of unchurched people say a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church. Other methods, such as a church member knocking on the door, a TV commercial, postcard, or Facebook ad, are less effective.