Church is something that provides the foundation for the Christian religion in the world today. It is a place where believers can come together, worship, and learn about their preferred faith.
In the United States, 70% of the general population describes themselves as Christian.
The unique thing about the modern Christian faith is that it is so divided. With multiple denominations each interpreting the Bible in a different way, everyone is seeking their one truth in the company of others who believe the same thing they do. In doing so, church demographics are both united and divided simultaneously.
Families and Their Church Preferences
- At 25.4%, Evangelical Protestants are the largest denomination in the United States.
- 20.8% of US citizens identify with the Catholic faith.
- 14.7% of church families say that they are Mainline Protestants.
- The percentage of families who attend Historically Black Protestant churches: 6.5%.
- 1.6% of Christians identify with the Mormon faith.
- Jehovah’s Witnesses [0.8%] are slightly more prevalent as a percentage of households with a denomination preference when compared to Orthodox Christians [0.5%].
- Jehovah’s Witnesses are the most likely to attend services every week, with 85% of households stating this preference.
- At 31%, Catholics are the most likely to say that they seldom or never attend services.
- Baby Boomer households [34%] are the most likely to attend church each week. Millennial households [11%] are the least likely to attend weekly.
- Women [57%] are more likely to attend church weekly compared to men.
- Households who say that their belief in God is absolutely certain make up 87% of the average church attendance on any given week. Interestingly enough, at 36%, they also make up the largest portion of Christians who say they seldom or never go to church.
Is church important to the Christian way of life? Some would say that it is absolutely essential to go to church when you’re a believer. Yet the data also shows that there are a number of Christians with the same absolute certainty in God that prefer not to go to church at all. Is their faith any different than those who attend church frequently? If people can have personal preferences of worship so as to create a denomination of like-minded individuals, shouldn’t people who prefer to stay away from church be treated as their own denomination as well?
Race and Ethnicity in the Church
- With the exception of Historically Black Protestants, which is a racial/ethnic specific church, the only denomination in the US that is not a majority White/Caucasian denomination are Jehovah’s Witnesses [36% White].
- Mainline Protestants are the least racially or ethnically diverse church, with 86% of members being White. Mormons are a close second, being 85% White.
- 3 out of every 4 Evangelical Protestants is White, but just 59% of Catholics are.
- African-Americans/Blacks are the most likely [83%] to believe with absolute certain that God exists. Asians [44%] are the least likely to share this belief.
- Whites [36%] are the most likely to believe that there are clear standards for right and wrong. Asians [21%] are the least likely to believe this.
- African-Americans are 2.5x more likely than Asians and 2x more likely than Whites to believe the Bible should be taken literally as the Word of God.
Isn’t it interesting that the racial and ethnic demographics which are the least likely to have high income earners are the most likely to believe in God and attend church each week? And the ethnicity which is the most likely to have a high income has the lowest levels of weekly church attendance and black and white thinking? The Bible talks about how people cannot serve two masters. When money gets involved, it looks like families tend to prefer money to the church more often.
Income Distribution in the Church
- Orthodox Christians have the highest HHI of any denomination, with 65% of households earning $50,000 or more per year.
- Historically Black Protestant church members have the lowest HHI of any denomination, with 75% earning less than $50k per year. This is even lower than Jehovah’s Witnesses [73%].
- Mainline Protestants [51%] have more households earning $50k or more per year than Catholic households [45%].
- In households that earn less than $30k per year, there is an 86% chance that their belief in God is “fairly certain” or “absolutely certain.”
- At 14%, church families with an HHI above $100k are the most likely to say that they don’t believe in God.
- 58% of families earning less than $30k per year say that religion has a place of importance in their lives.
- At 37%, families earning between $50-$100k are the most likely to attend church every week.
- 60% of individuals who live in a church household with an HHI of $30k or less say that daily prayer is part of their lives.
- 31% of church families with an HHI of $100k or more say that they seldom or never pray.
- Even with daily church attendance, only 1 in 4 church families participate in Bible studies, organized prayer sessions, or some other religious education group.
- 45% of church families, no matter what the income level, say that common sense is more important as a guiding principle than religion.
- With the exception of Orthodox Christians [18%], US Muslims are more likely [17%] to hold a post-graduate degree than any other Christian denomination.
When money is brought into the equation, the church tends to take a back seat. This is especially true when church families make more money in terms of faith participation, but not necessarily in church attendance. The most interesting fact found here, however, is that there is a 4:3 ratio of religious families preferring their common sense to religious guidance as to what is right and what is wrong for their lives. If people feel like they need to rely upon themselves and that religion isn’t as important, then it is understandable to see a drop in families who state that they have a church or religious preference when asked.
Love and Marriage in the Church
- 53% of married couples who say that God is at the center of their marriage describe their marriage as being “very happy.”
- Just 7% of “struggling” married couples say that God is at the center of their marriage.
- Married couples who attend church regularly and are active within their congregation are 35% less likely to divorce than couples with no religious preference.
- People who do not actively attend church or engage with their faith are 20% more likely than the general population to seek a divorce.
- Attending church on a weekly basis correlates with a 10% drop in the chances of a divorce occurring.
- Yet of all Americans who have ever been married, 33% will have divorced at least once. 40% of today’s children will witness their parents seek a divorce before they reach adulthood.
- Even the most active of church participants, however, faces a 10-25% risk of having their marriage end in divorce.
People aren’t perfect, so to assume all church participants will have wonderful marriages and happy lives is an unreasonable expectation. Being held to a higher standard, however, may be a reasonable expectation as the faith of the church specifically states that “God hates divorce.” When people are engaged in their faith, there does seem to be more love involved with each couple, but that doesn’t eliminate the risk. People in the church can do everything right and still find their marriage not working out.
Heaven and Hell Within the Church Demographics
- 72% of adults who attend church say that they believe in heaven. 21% say they don’t believe in heaven and 7% say they are unsure.
- Evangelical Protestants [88%] are more likely than Catholics [85%] to believe in heaven.
- Mormons [95%] are the most likely to believe in heaven. Jehovah’s Witnesses [50%] are the least likely to believe in heaven.
- 58% of Christians say they believe that hell exists. 34% say they don’t believe in hell and 8% say they aren’t sure.
- Evangelical and Mainline Protestants at 82% respectively are the most likely to believe in hell. Just 5% of Jehovah’s Witnesses say they believe hell exists.
- 2 out of every 3 Catholics say that they believe hell exists.
Central to the foundation of many church teachings is the black and white thinking that one must be a Christian in order to avoid hell. Believe and repent or your will burn forever in the fires of hell – or some variation of that statement. Yet even with several generations being taught this fear-based message, over 40% of church families don’t believe the message. If there is doubt about what the church is teaching, then is it any wonder why church attendance is dropping in a majority of church denominations?