• 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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directionsJuly 13, 2011 - Although public skepticism of religion has become increasingly commonplace, a new Barna Group study shows that most Americans remain relatively upbeat about the role that local churches play in their communities.

The nationwide study shows that three-quarters of U.S. adults believe the presence of a church is “very” (53%) or “somewhat” positive (25%) for their community. In contrast, only one out of every 20 Americans believes that the influence of a church is negative—either very (2%) or somewhat so (3%). That leaves about one out of six adults (17%) who are indifferent toward the role of churches.

Those with the most favorable views of churches are Elders (ages 66-plus), married adults, residents of the South, women, Protestants, churchgoers, African-Americans and political conservatives.

The people least likely to hold a firmly positive view of churches are Mosaics (ages 18 to 27), men, never-married adults, those living in the West and Northeast, atheists and agnostics, unchurched adults, political liberals, and those not registered to vote. However, with the exception of atheists and agnostics, a majority of every key demographic group studied believes that churches have a generally positive influence on their communities.

How Churches Can Contribute?
Despite their positive feelings toward churches, many adults are unclear as to how churches could best serve their communities. One-fifth of adults (21%) did not venture a single response as to how churches could contribute positively to their communities. Among the unchurched, defined as those who have not attended a church in the last six months, fully one-third are not certain how congregations could be beneficial. [Note: the survey question asked, Many churches and faith leaders want to contribute positively to the common good of their community. What does your community need, if anything, that you feel churches could provide?]

Addressing poverty and helping the poor was the most common top-of-mind response Americans offered as to how churches can positively influence their communities (29%). This includes helping the needy, poor and disabled, distributing food and clothing, and assisting the homeless.

Americans also expect that churches would contribute positively by engaging in common ministry activities, such as teaching the Bible and giving spiritual direction (12%); serving youth, families and the elderly (13%); and cultivating biblical values in individuals and communities (14%). What kind of biblical values do people expect churches to espouse? Respondents not only said churches should teach and instill morals and values, but also believe they should cultivate a sense of belonging, show compassion and love toward others, and bring unity to the community.

Also, one in ten Americans (10%) believe that churches should assist those in recovery, providing counseling, support groups, and other forms of guidance and assistance to help lives get back on track.

One out of 14 adults (7%) said that churches can assist in terms of financial, career-related or other educational ways—such as helping the unemployed get jobs, giving financial assistance, providing financial counseling, and offering literacy classes.

Small percentages of adults mentioned that churches should be inclusive and accepting of everyone (3%) or that they should be engaged politically (1%) as a means of contributing to their communities.

What Does it Mean?
David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, offered four observations about the research findings:

1) Churches are perceived to be an important element of a community, even among the unchurched. This positive view is partly due to the fact that most unchurched adults are de-churched, or former churchgoers. So, although they may be wary of personal involvement, they have an understanding of the service and assistance that churches can provide to their communities.

2) Indifference toward churches is a key feature of skeptics’ opinions. Even among the most non-religious adults—atheists and agnostics—the majority simply express neutral perspectives about the role of congregations. Only 14% of this segment is negative toward churches. Despite the aggressive posture of leading skeptics, most Americans who have no religious affiliation or belief are not overtly hostile to churches. Their response is better characterized as benign indifference.

3) Churches are not thought of as contributing to civic enhancement, beyond poverty assistance. Most people do not connect the role of faith communities to civic affairs, particularly local efforts like assisting city government, serving public education, doing community clean-up, or engaging in foster care and adoption, and so on. There are opportunities for faith leaders to provide more intentional, tangible, and much-needed efforts to assist local government, particularly as many services have been diminished by the economy.

4) Introducing people to a transformed life in Christ is rarely perceived to be an act of community service. There seems to be a disconnect for most Americans between serving the community and helping individuals find their way to God through Christ. Ministry-related goals – such as teaching the Bible, introducing people to Christ, and bringing people to salvation – are infrequently viewed as a primary way to serve the community. Even among many churchgoers, contributing positively to the community is perceived to be the result of offering the right mix of public service programs. Yet, this seems to miss an important biblical pattern: you change communities by transforming lives.

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Designed by Grant England

About the Research
This report is based upon online interviews conducted in the Barna Group OmniPollSM. This study consisted of a random sample of 1,021 adults selected from across the continental United States, age 18 and older, February 10 through February 18, 2011. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3.2 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.

The survey was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®. Created by Knowledge Networks, the panel is a probability-based online non-volunteer access panel. Panel members are recruited using a statistically valid sampling method with a published sample frame of residential addresses that covers approximately 97% of U.S. households. Sampled non-Internet households, when recruited, are provided a netbook computer and free Internet service so they may also participate as online panel members. KnowledgePanel includes persons living in cell phone only households.

“Unchurched” adults are those individuals who have not attended a Christian worship service in the last six months, not including special events such as weddings or funerals.

Barna Group (which includes its research division, the Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. It 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 Group 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, 2011.