• Scotland: Lessons for Effective Ministry in a Post-Christian Context

    Scotland: Lessons for Effective Ministry in a Post-Christian Context

    August 27, 2015— Can the Christian community flourish in a post-Christian context? This is the main question behind a landmark study of the state of faith and effective ministry in Scotland—the first of its kind for Barna Group outside of North America.

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  • 2015 Sees Sharp Rise in Post-Christian Population

    2015 Sees Sharp Rise in Post-Christian Population

    While the United States remains shaped by Christianity, the faith’s influence—particularly as a force in American politics and culture—is slowly waning. An increasing number of religiously unaffiliated, a steady drop in church attendance, the recent Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, and the growing tension over religious freedoms all point to a larger secularizing trend sweeping across the nation.

    But how do the numbers stack up? Is America, home to the largest Christian population in the world, actually becoming a “post-Christian” nation? In a recent study, Barna Group analyzed 60,808 interviews conducted over a seven-year period to measure irreligion in American cities. Currently, 78% of Americans describe themselves as “Christian,” but in order to dig deeper than just self-affiliation, Barna Group looked at a variety of key faith indicators for both belief and practice.

    To measure a person’s level of irreligion, Barna Group tracks 15 metrics related to faith (you can find the full list of 15 at the end of the article). These factors speak to the 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.

    These kinds of questions—compared to ticking the “Christian” box in a census—get beyond how people loosely identify themselves (affiliation), and get to the core of what people actually believe and how they behave as a result of their belief (practice). These indicators give a much more accurate picture of belief in America.

    To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals had to meet 60% or more of the factors (nine or more out of 15 criteria). “Highly post-Christian” individuals meet 80% or more of the factors (12 or more of these 15 criteria). Read more about Barna’s post-Christian metric.

    Where Are We as a Nation?
    Whether one believes this decline of “Christian America” calls for a time of lament, or presents great opportunity (or both) for the church, one cannot help but accept the changing landscape. In just two years, the percentage of Americans who qualify as “post-Christian” rose by 7 percentage points, from 37% in 2013 to 44% in 2015. Across the United States, cities in every state are becoming more post-Christian—some at a faster rate than others

    Find out which American cities ranked as the most “Post-Christian” in 2015—
    and see where you city stands >

     

    Post-Christian Metrics
    To qualify as “post-Christian,” individuals had to meet 60% or more of the following factors (nine or more). “Highly post-Christian” individuals meet 80% or more of the factors (12 or more of these 15 criteria).

    1. Do not believe in God
    2. Identify as atheist or agnostic
    3. Disagree that faith is important in their lives
    4. Have not prayed to God (in the last year)
    5. Have never made a commitment to Jesus
    6. Disagree the Bible is accurate
    7. Have not donated money to a church (in the last year)
    8. Have not attended a Christian church (in the last year)
    9. Agree that Jesus committed sins
    10. Do not feel a responsibility to “share their faith”
    11. Have not read the Bible (in the last week)
    12. Have not volunteered at church (in the last week)
    13. Have not attended Sunday school (in the last week)
    14. Have not attended religious small group (in the last week)
    15. Do not participate in a house church (in the last year)

    About the Research
    The data reported in this article are based on telephone and online interviews with nationwide random samples of 60,808 adults conducted over a seven-year period, through 2015.

    The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is plus or minus 0.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All non-institutionalized adults in the 48 contiguous states were eligible to be interviewed and the distribution of respondents in the survey sample corresponds to the geographic dispersion of the U.S. adult population. Some interviews were conducted in Spanish, but the vast majority of the interviews were completed in English.

    All telephone interviews were conducted by Barna Group. All households were selected for inclusion in the sample using a random-digit dial technique, which allows every telephone household in the nation to have an equal and known probability of selection. Households selected for inclusion in the survey sample received multiple callbacks to increase the probability of obtaining a representative distribution of adults. Regional quotas were used to ensure that sufficient population dispersion was achieved. There were also minimum and maximum ranges placed on the distribution of respondents within several demographic variables that were tracked during the field process to ensure that statistical weighting would not be excessive. When a particular attribute reached one of the parameters, the sampling selection process was varied to preclude individuals who did not meet the necessary demographic criterion, with the interviewer seeking a person from the same household who fit the desired criterion. Up to 30% of telephone interviewing was conducted on cell phones in the data represented in States.

    Online interviews were conducted using an online research panel called KnowledgePanel® based on probability sampling that covers both the online and offline populations in the U.S. The panel members are randomly recruited by telephone and by self-administered mail and web surveys. Households are provided with access to the Internet and hardware if needed. Unlike other Internet research that covers only individuals with Internet access who volunteer for research, this process uses a dual sampling frame that includes both listed and unlisted phone numbers, telephone and non-telephone households, and cell-phone-only households. The panel is not limited to current Web users or computer owners. All potential panelists are randomly selected to join the KnowledgePanel; unselected volunteers are not able to join.

    The survey questions pertaining to faith and demographics were analyzed in reference to two different geographic perspectives: by DMA and by state. The label “DMA” stands for Designated Market Area and represents a unique geographic area that also serves as a commonly accepted media market as defined by The Neilsen Company. DMAs have been configured so that the entire U.S. is assigned to one, and only one, of 210 DMAs. These are based on the television viewing habits of the residents in each county.

    While there are 210 DMAs, this report contains data for 117. These are the areas in which Barna had a sufficient number of completed surveys with people from a given market. In most markets, we had a sample of 150 or more; a few smaller markets had a minimum of 100. We used the same minimum-level criteria for the states analyzed in this report.

    Some calculations include data from The Nielsen Company/Local Television Market Universe Estimates and the U.S. Census Bureau.

    © 2015, Barna Group

  • Friendships Are the Top Thing People Love Most About Their Cities

    Friendships Are the Top Thing People Love Most About Their Cities

    July 29, 2015—“There’s no place like home,” repeats Dorothy as she taps those famous ruby slippers together. The place to which she so desperately longs to return is Kansas, that little corner of the world she calls home. One might imagine the Depression-era dustbowl of Kansas is no match for the wonders of Oz, but it’s the place she feels rooted, attached and secure.

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  • Putting Down Roots: Most Americans Plan to Stay Where They Are

    Putting Down Roots: Most Americans Plan to Stay Where They Are

    July 15, 2015— Leslie Knope’s endearing enthusiasm for her beloved town of Pawnee in NBC’s Parks and Recreation may be rubbing off on the rest of us, because an increasing number of Americans are “going local.” From food to clothing to breweries, locally owned and locally grown have become premium labels. Whether it’s an objection to corporate franchising, a push for more local jobs or a desire to utilize local resources more sustainably, “going local” stems from a real sense of attachment or belonging to place.

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  • Christians React to the Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage: 9 Key Findings

    Christians React to the Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage: 9 Key Findings

    July 1, 2015—— On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 states. This landmark decision was met with both celebration and sorrow as Americans on both sides of the debate voiced their opinions on the decision. A new Barna survey conducted in the wake of the ruling reveals nine key findings that will help make sense of where Americans stand—and what’s next in this divisive conversation.

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National Study Describes Christian Accountability Provided by ChurchesNovember 29, 2010 - Many of the exhortations in the Bible are not popular in today's world.

But a new study by the Barna Group indicates that one of the least favorite biblical principles might well be "Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow" (Hebrews 13:17, NLT).

The Extent of Accountability
Because the underlying theme of the Christian life is one of being transformed from a selfish and self-driven individual to one who lives for and surrenders control of one's life to God, the practice of accountability for life choices and behavior is central to that process of transformation. Yet, a national survey by the Barna Group among people who describe themselves as Christian and involved in a church discovered that only 5% indicated that their church does anything to hold them accountable for integrating biblical beliefs and principles into their life.

Although there were a few subgroups that were more likely than average to experience church-based accountability, there was not a single segment for which even one out of every five people said their church does anything to hold them accountable. The segments that were most likely to have some form of church-centered accountability were evangelicals (15%), adults living in the western states (10%), people who say they are conservative on social and political matters (9%), and Baby Busters, who are known to be a highly relational generation (8%). Amazingly, while 7% of Protestants claimed to have such accountability there was not a single Catholic adult surveyed who claimed to be held accountable by his/her church.

The Means of Accountability
Among the 5% of Christian adults who said their church holds them accountable, there were seven primary approaches to oversight that were described. The most common approach was through small groups, which was listed by one-third (34%) of those who claimed to be held accountable. Putting those figures in context, the survey found that 22% of adults were involved in a small group, which means that only 7% of all small group attenders identified accountability as one of the functions fulfilled by their group.

Other accountability methods utilized by churches included limiting or revoking membership for those who did not meet specific standards (21% of those who experienced any form of accountability); being accountable to individuals they were acquainted with in the congregation (19%); being responsible for completing activities assigned to them by church leaders, with follow-up by those leaders (16%); personal accountability to the pastor or other pastoral staff person (10%); answering directly to the congregation for questionable activities that are identified (8%); and having regularly scheduled reviews with church leaders (6%).

Placing these statistics into their larger context—that is, how many Christians are held accountable by any particular approach —demonstrates not only how infrequent accountability is, but also how little consistency there is in the procedures used by churches across the nation. The most frequent method—accountability through the relationships developed in small groups—is practiced in the lives of only 2% of all self-described Christians in the nation. Other forms are found in the lives of 1% or fewer Christians. 

Why Isn't Accountability More Common?
Although the survey was not designed to assess the reasons for such a paucity of accountability practices, the survey's director, George Barna, offered some possibilities to consider based on previous research.

"Barna Group studies among pastors and other church leaders have consistently shown that such leaders have a distaste for initiating any type of confrontation and conflict with congregants. Another barrier is that many followers of Christ are uncertain about the difference between judgment and discernment. Not wanting to be judgmental, they therefore avoid all conversation about the other person’s behavior—except, sometimes, gossip.

"One of the cornerstones of the biblical concept of community is that of mutual accountability. But Americans these days cherish privacy and freedom to the extent that the very idea of being held accountable by others—even those with their best interests in mind, or who have a legal or spiritual authority to do so—is considered inappropriate, antiquated and rigid. With a large majority of Christian churches proclaiming that people should know, trust and obey all of the behavioral principles taught in the Bible, overlooking a principle as foundational as accountability breeds even more public confusion about scriptural authority and faith-based community, as well as personal behavioral responsibility."

About the Research
This report is based upon telephone interviews conducted in the Barna Poll by the Barna Group, with a random sample of 1,000 adults selected from across the continental United States, age 18 and older, August 16-22, 2010. The interviews included 125 among people using cell phones. The portion of the study analyzed in this report is based on 889 adults who considered themselves to be Christian and who attend a Christian church. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample of self-identified Christians is ±3.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Minimal statistical weighting was used to calibrate the aggregate sample to known population percentages in relation to several key demographic variables.

Respondents were asked the question, "Does the church that you attend most often do anything specific to hold you, personally, accountable for integrating your faith into your daily life?" If the answer was "yes," a follow-up question asked for people to explain more specifically what the church does to hold them accountable.

"Evangelicals" are defined based on nine survey criteria, including having made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and also indicating they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Evangelicals also embrace seven other religious perspectives. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as "evangelical."

Baby Busters are individuals born between 1965 and 1983.

The western states encompass Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.

Barna Group (which includes its research division, the Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization that conducts primary research, produces media resources pertaining to spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries. Located in Ventura, California, Barna has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.

If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each new, bi-monthly update on the latest research findings from the Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources are also available through this website. 

© Barna Group 2010.

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