That’s the results coming from the Australian Community Survey (ACS), with responses from some 8500 people across into eight community types (with more than 1000 responses from each). The research was conducted by Perth’s Edith Cowan University and National Church Life Survey Research (NCLS).
However, it isn’t quite as simple as that, says Dr John Bellamy, who was involved in designing the survey and led the preparation of the book Why People Don’t Go to Church,* which derived from the research. Bellamy is a senior researcher with NCLS and is based at Anglicare (NSW).
“The reasons boil down to a number of things,” he says. “One that stood out in the research was the importance of relationships. We noticed in the data that whether or not the spouse was attending church was an important factor and whether you yourself attended.
“Also, we noted the role of friends. And even going back further in a person’s religious upbringing, we noted the role of parents. So those factors together were important in explaining why people do or do not go to church.”
On their own, each factor probably doesn’t account for whether a person attends church or not. Other factors impact as well, such as the kind of things that people believe.
“You’d expect a very strong correlation between whether people hold Christian beliefs and whether they’re involved in church. But we noted a range of other things too, such as the sort of attitudes that people have towards church and churchgoing.”
Other reasons given include lack of motivation—which is not a rejection of churches—but many don’t seriously consider church involvement or are more attracted to other activities. There’s a lack of time for some who show no hostility to church, but have other priorities. And some have a lack of access to a church or one of their chosen denomination.
Top 10 reasons people don’t go to church
(Among infrequent attenders and non-attenders)Boring or unfulfilling church services 42%
Beliefs of the church 35%
Church’s moral views 35%
No need to 34%
Prefer to do other things 31%
“My beliefs are too weak” 27%
The way churches are organised 24%
Other commitments 21%
Bad experience among church people 16%
Not enough time because of work 15%out him.
Source: Why People Don’t Go to Church, 1998 Australian Community SurveyComment below about what you think has changed since 1998? Positive or Negative.
What do people in your street think about Jesus?
Do our churches attract new people and what do new comers think about going to church?
Would non-attenders like to know more about Jesus?
Would they like opportunity to learn more outside of a church building setting?
Do you provide those opportunities? How do you know?