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Poll: Church memberships decline to less than 50%

Published: Apr. 4, 2021 at 9:22 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A poll is showing that less than 50% of American adults say they belonged to a church, synagogue or mosque.

According to a Gallup Poll, church membership has been on the decline for decades, and 2020 was no exception.

The Gallup Poll is showing that only 47% of American adults belong to a church, synagogue or mosque which is one of the lowest percentages in history.

At the turn of the century, church memberships were nearly 70% nationwide, however over the last 20 years it’s dropped 20%.

“The reasons for the decline are complicated because while there are some mainline churches that have declined more quickly than others, a distinction that matters is surely a decline in church membership but it isn’t a decline in interest of religion,” Augustana Religion Professor Richard Swanson said.

Swanson, a religion professor for 31 years, says there are multiple different reasons for the decline.

“The availability of online resources is probably part of what feeds the spirituality piece. When people move, they very frequently disassociate with the kind of communities they’ve been a part of,” Swanson said.

The poll was taken in 2020, a year that left many pews empty and forced churches to adapt to a global pandemic. Which in turn, could bring more people coming back to church.

“I think it’s a trying time. Throughout history there have been people who have realized that if it be the depression, or it be political activity, or wars it seems like church attendance goes up,” said Lead Pastor at Faith Temple Church Jeff Hayes.

The poll says the decline in memberships is attributed to the rise in Americans who have no religious preference.

“The polls that I’ve seen over the last 10 years seem to suggest that people are weary of membership in a group, and the polls that I’ve seen over the past 10 years show a strong interest in things that are spiritual,” said Swanson.

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