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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Why Americans attend church

More than half of adult Americans say they attend church once a month or more while 28 percent seldom attend and 16 percent never do, according to a March Gallup poll.

The No. 1 reason Protestants gave is for spiritual growth and guidance (25 percent) while Roman Catholics said church attendance keeps them grounded and inspired (28 percent).

Protestants’ second choice for attending church split closely three ways: a sense of community with other members (17 percent), to worship God (16 percent) and to stay grounded and inspired (16 percent).

The second-place split for Catholics was: “it’s my faith” (21 percent), spiritual growth and guidance (17 percent) and tradition or a family value (15 percent). The fellowship or community aspect didn’t appear to be important to Catholics, only 3 percent of whom selected that as a reason for church attendance.

The study was based on telephone interviews with 1,006 adults aged 18 and older.

ELCA Research and Evaluation
found in its 2001 U.S. Congregational Life Survey that members attend services “to worship or experience God” (61.2 percent), “to receive communion/eucharist/Lord’s Supper” (28.5 percent), and “for encouragement and inspiration” (27.6 percent). Three reasons in the 13 percent to 14 percent range are for prayer time, to learn more about the faith and to expose children to the faith.


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