Study: U.S. Unchurched Population Nears 100 Million

Over the past decade, the unchurched population has remained stable at one third of the American population, the latest Barna Group survey showed.

The Barna study found that 33 percent of adults are classified as unchurched – people who have not attended a religious service of any type during the past six months. The statistic has remained relatively the same since 1994 when 36 percent were reported to be unchurched.

Still, the unchurched population in numbers is staggering. An estimated 73 million adults are presently unchurched. The number nears 100 million when teens and children are added to the population segment. That also includes an estimated 13 to 15 million born-again adults and children. On its own, the unchurched population of the United States would be the eleventh most-populated nation on earth, the Barna Group noted.

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Some people groups are notorious church avoiders, the study found.

Political liberals were more than twice as likely to be unchurched (47 percent) than political conservatives (19 percent). Single adults were also more likely to avoid religious services (37 percent) than married adults (29 percent).

Those least likely to be unchurched are residents in the South (26 percent) while residents in the West (42 percent) and Northeast (39 percent) remain the most church resistant.

The study also found sexual orientation is closely related to church status with 31 percent of heterosexuals classified as unchurched compared to 49 percent of homosexuals.

Ethnically, African Americans were less likely to be unchurched (25 percent) than were whites (32 percent); 34 percent of Hispanics are unchurched and 63 percent of Asians.

While Christians are the most likely faith group to consistently attend church services, the Barna study revealed that 61 percent of adults who are associated with a faith other than Christianity had not attended any type of religious service over the past half-year. The unchurched Christian population was measured at 24 percent.

Among Christians, only 1 percent of evangelical Christians, 16 percent of non-evangelical born-again Christians, and 32 percent of self-claimed Christians who are not born again were found to be unchurched.

Catholics were more likely to be unchurched (25 percent) than Protestants (20 percent). People who attend a mainline church were more likely to avoid services (26 percent) than those who attend non-mainline Protestant congregations.

Correlation was also made with church size. According to the study, 24 percent of people who attend small churches were unchurched compared to 15 percent who attend mid-sized churches and 5 percent of those who affiliate with a large church of 500 or more adults on average.

The Barna report is based on a nationwide survey of 2,006 adults, age 18 and older, conducted in January 2007.

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