8 February 2023 |
According to a new report in The Guardian, “even as faith continues to dominate American politics, … churches are closing at rapid numbers in the US. Congregations are declining, and younger generations are abandoning Christianity.”
As the US adjusts to an increasingly non-religious population, thousands of churches are closing each year in the country – a figure that experts believe may have accelerated since the Covid-19 pandemic. The situation means some hard decisions for pastors, who have to decide when a dwindling congregation is no longer sustainable. But it has also created a boom market for those wanting to buy churches, with former houses of worship now finding new life.
As many as 4,500 Protestant churches closed in 2019, says the report. According to Scott McConnell, executive director at Lifeway Research, Protestant pastors reported that typical church attendance is only 85% of pre-pandemic levels.
“In the last three years, all signs are pointing to a continued pace of closures probably similar to 2019 or possibly higher, as there’s been a really rapid rise in American individuals who say they’re not religious.” But while Covid-19 may have accelerated the decline, there is a broader, long-running trend of people moving away from religion. In 2017 Lifeway surveyed young adults aged between 18 and 22 who had attended church regularly for at least a year during high school. The firm found that seven out of 10 had stopped attending church regularly.
This is seen mostly clearly in the absence of younger people in churches:
About a quarter of the young adults who dropped out of church said they disagreed with their church’s stance on political and social issues, McConnell said. “And so the younger generation just doesn’t feel like they’re being accepted in a church environment, or some of their choices aren’t being accepted by those at church.”