Barna Study Reveals America's Most 'Churched' and 'Unchurched' Cities

(Photo: Reuters/Seth Wenig)Churchgoers sing praises during the third service of the morning at Christ Church in Montclair, New Jersey, on September 4, 2005. The church, which holds five services every Sunday to accommodate the interest of their more then 5,000 members, is planning to build a larger facility in nearby Rockaway Township despite resistance from residents and the local government.

As trends show that church attendance is decreasing in the United States, the evangelical polling organization Barna Group recently released data revealing which of America's cities are the most "churched," "unchurched," "dechurched" and "post-Christian."

Using data compiled through telephone and online interviews with 76,505 randomly sampled adults over a seven-year period that ended in April 2016, Barna claims that it was able to break down American cities, metropolitan areas and its respondents into three different metrics related to church attendance.

Those who have attended a regular church service (excluding events like wedding or funeral) in the past seven days were categorized as "churched," while those who said that they have not attended a regular church service in the past six months were classified as "unchurched."

Thirdly, those who said they used to be somewhat or very active churchgoers but have not attended a church service in the past six months were identified as "dechurched."

Based on the data, about 38 percent of respondents reported to be active churchgoers. Forty-three percent of respondents were classified as "unchurched" and 34 percent were classified as "dechurched."

Barna analyzed the data based on the Designated Market Area of the respondents. The research has a maximum margin of sampling error of ±0.4 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

According to the data, the two most "churched" areas in the United States are Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Salt Lake City, Utah, which are both 59 percent churched. The areas of Augusta-Aiken, Georgia, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ranked as the third and fourth most churched cities, being 57 percent churched. The area of Birmingham-Anniston-Tuscaloosa, Alabama, ranked as the fifth most churched area at 56 percent churched.

Topping Barna's list of "unchurched" cities is the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area in California at 60 percent unchurched. Two areas in Nevada — Reno (59 percent) and Las Vegas (55 percent) — ranked as the second and fifth most unchurched cities in the U.S. Meanwhile, two Massachusetts areas — Springfield-Holyoke (57 percent) and Boston, Massachusetts-Manchester, New Hampshire (56 percent) — were ranked as the third and fourth most unchurched areas in the country.

Three of the areas that ranked in the top five for most unchurched cities also ranked in the top five most "dechurched" cities.

Just as it ranked as the nation's top unchurched city, the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose area ranked as America's most dechurched. According to Barna, the metropolitan area is 47 percent dechurched.

The Boston-Manchester area (46 percent) is the second most dechurched area in the U.S., followed by the Seattle-Tacoma area of Washington (45 percent) and the Portland-Auburn area of Maine (45 percent). Springfield-Holyoke is the fifth most dechurched area in the U.S.

(Photo: Barna Group)

Using data from the same sample of 76,505 randomly sampled adults over a seven-year period that ended in April 2016, Barna also claims to have pinpointed the most "post-Christian" cities in America.

"Barna has developed a metric to measure the changing religious landscape of American culture. We call this the 'post-Christian' metric," a Barna report reads. "To qualify as 'post-Christian,' individuals must meet nine or more of our 16 criteria, which identify a lack of Christian identity, belief and practice. These factors include whether individuals identify as atheist, have never made a commitment to Jesus, have not attended church in the last year or have not read the Bible in the last week."

Those 16 criteria can be found here.

The research discovered that eight of the top 10 "post-Christian" cities in America are all in the Northeastern United States.

Portland-Auburn, Maine, ranked as the most post-Christian city, being 57-percent post-Christian. It was followed by the Boston-Manchester area (56 percent); the Albany-Schenectady-Troy area of New York (54 percent); the Providence, Rhode Island-Bedford, Massachusetts area (53 percent); and the Burlington, Vermont-Plattsburgh, New York area (53 percent).

New York City (51 percent) is the seventh most post-Christian city in the U.S., while San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose (50 percent) ranked as the eighth most post-Christian area in the country. The research found that the Seattle-Tacoma area and Buffalo, New York, were also 50 percent post-Christian.

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