5 Big Reasons Families Are Attending Church Less Often

I grew up attending church.  If the doors were open, we were there.  That meant a minimum of Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night.

And when there were "revival services" it meant every night of the week for an entire week.

Years ago, this was the norm for many families who attended church.  3 times a week.  4 weeks a month.  12 months a year.  The only times you missed were when you were sick or on vacation.

There was even an attendance chart in your Sunday School classroom and the goal was to fill it with 52 stars.

Fast forward to the 2000's.  Sunday night and Wednesday night church attendance became less and less of a priority for many families.  They still came on Sunday mornings, but attending regularly was now considered attending 3 out of 4 Sunday mornings a month.

As we moved into the 2010's, church attendance patterns gradually slid to where it is now.  Regular attendance for the average family is once a month.  Simply put...families are attending church less often.

Why?  Let's look at 5 big reasons.

Reason 1 - Families are busier and more tired.  
Families are busier than ever.  They run all week with little to no margin in their lives.  And by the time Sunday rolls around, they are exhausted.  And so they use Sunday as their margin.  It literally becomes a "day of rest" for them.

When you are worn out, it can seem like too much trouble to get the kids up and dressed for church.  When you are tired, you don't feel like driving to church...at least not every weekend.  And so families are opting to sleep in, spend time together at home and perhaps even watch church online.

And when you have no margin in your life, you may also use Sunday to do chores, clean the house, wash the car,  buy groceries and other stuff you can't get to during the week.

Reason 2 - Erosion of trust in authority.  
This is a reflection of the erosion of trust for all things authoritarian.   Look at these trends.
    • 1970's - 70% of Americans believes they could trust institutions to do the right thing.  In 2016, it had fallen to 32%.
    • Trust in Congress feel from 49% to 9% during the same time frame.
    • Trust in the church fell from 65% to 41% during the same time frame.
    • A 2015 Harvard study revealed that 86% of people distrust financial institutions. 
    • 88% of people sometimes or never trust the media.  Can you say "fake news?"
Couple that with widespread sexual abuse in the entertainment industry, politics and yes...even the church, and it's understandable why families do not trust authority.

Reason 3 - Involvement in other activities.  The church used to be the center of families' social lives.  Their friends were at church.  Their families outings and activities were tied to the church.  Their weekends revolved around what was happening at church.

But today's families are involved in more weekend activities outside of the church.  An example is sports.  There used to be a day when kid's sports teams didn't play on Sunday so families could be in church.  Not anymore.  Go to the local sports fields in your community on a Sunday morning and you'll find tons of kids and families playing soccer, baseball and football.  And traveling sports' teams pull families away from church for weeks on end.

Reason 4 - More blended families.  The U.S. Bureau of Census says 1,300 new step-families are forming every day.  Over 50% of families are remarried or re-coupled.  Obviously this breaks up the flow of kids being able to attend church every week as they alternate between parents on weekends.

Reason 5 - Lower expectations.  There was a humorous statement that people used years ago about church attendance.  It was this.

"People who like the church attend Sunday morning services.  People who come back on Sunday night for service love the Pastor.  And people who also attend on Wednesday nights love Jesus."

The unspoken expectation behind that statement was that families who were serious about following Jesus should be in church every time the doors were open...every week.  Families felt guilty when they had to miss.

Today the unspoken expectation is much lower.  Families don't think twice about missing church and don't feel guilty when they do.  Expectations have been lowered.

If you're reading this, your church's attendance has probably been affected by all of these reasons.

So, how can we encourage families to make church attendance a priority?  How can we see families adjust their schedules so they can attend more frequently?

Stay tuned.  Next week, I'll share an article entitled "How to See Families Attend Church More Often."  We'll share specific steps you can take to see families begin attending more frequently.

Your turn.  The floor is yours.  What attendance patterns do you see in your church?  What other factors do you think are contributing to less frequent church attendance?  Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.