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The Number of Young Adults Attending Church Has Plummeted Since COVID

The Number of Young Adults Attending Church Has Plummeted Since COVID

The United States is facing a rapidly growing trend of church closures as congregations dwindle and a younger generation of Americans abandon Christianity altogether. With faith still dominating American politics, the country is adjusting to an increasingly non-religious population.

According to Lifeway Research, about 4,500 Protestant churches closed in 2019, with only 3,000 new churches opening. This was the first time the number of churches in the US hadn’t grown since the firm started studying the topic. And with the COVID-19 pandemic speeding up the trend of Americans not attending services, researchers believe closures have only accelerated since then.

“The closures, even for a temporary period of time, impacted a lot of churches. People breaking that habit of attending church means a lot of churches had to work hard to get people back to attending again,” said Scott McConnell, executive director at Lifeway Research. “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.”

Pastors have reported that typical church attendance is only 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels. A study by Pew Research found that the number of Americans who identified as Christian was 64 percent in 2020, with a record number of 30 percent of the population being classified as “religiously unaffiliated.”

While the pandemic may have accelerated the decline, there is a broader, long-running trend of people moving away from faith. A new poll from the Survey Center on American Life found that before the pandemic, 70 percent of adults age 18 to 30 attended services; but as of spring 2022, only 57 percent still attend.

This trend is reshaping both the current and future US faith landscape. In 1972, Pew Research found that 92 percent of Americans said they were Christian, but by 2070, that number is projected to drop below 50 percent, with the number of “religiously unaffiliated” Americans likely to outnumber those adhering to Christianity.

John Muzyka of Church Realty, a company that specializes in church sales, spoke to The Guardian about how churches can find a way to keep their doors open.

“A church will go through a life cycle,” Muzyka said. “At some point, maybe the congregation ages out, maybe they stop reaching young families. If the church ages and doesn’t reach young people, or the demographics change and they don’t figure out how to reach the new demographic, that church ends up closing. Yes, there’s financial pressures that will close a church, but oftentimes, it’s more that they didn’t figure out how to change when the community changed, or they didn’t have enough young people to continue the congregation for the next generation.”

© 2023 RELEVANT Media Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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