Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Religious but not spiritual: The high costs of ignoring personal piety"

Interesting, researched article from the Association of Religion Data Archives: the reason many churches are declining is that they don't nurture spiritual growth.

Study after study shows what may appear to outside observers to be simple common sense: A major reason people attend religious congregations is to deepen their faith lives and draw closer to God.

The U.S. Congregational Life Survey found the percentage of weekly worshippers who reported growing in faith through their congregation was twice as high as the percentage of more infrequent attenders who experienced similar spiritual growth.

The survey also indicated that “grassroots evangelists,” those who feel at ease sharing their faith with others and invite people to worship, were far more likely to strongly agree their spiritual needs are being met in the congregation and to practice devotional activities every day or most days.

“Worshippers in strong congregations also regularly spend time on their own praying, reading Scripture or using other materials to help them better understand and deepen their faith,” survey researchers reported. “In other words, congregations where people spend time on their own cultivating their faith tend to have extraordinary worship as well. They’re bookend strengths.”

In a survey of megachurches, the No. 1 reason people gave for moving from a spectator to an active participant their congregation was this: “I responded to an inward sense of call or spiritual prompting,” researchers Scott Thumma of Hartford Seminary and Warren Bird of the Leadership Network reported in their new book, “The Other 80 Percent: Turning Your Church’s Spectators Into Active Participants.”

And the No. 1 reason people participated less in their congregation in the past two years? It was a tie between “had less time” and their faith had “gotten weaker,” according to a separate survey of parish profile inventories offered by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

More here. Discuss.