Fewer than half attend, survey says
The Arizona Republic, Mar. 29, 2003
Michael Clancy, The Arizona Republic
Fewer than half of Arizona adults routinely take part in religious services, according to a new survey by WestGroup Research of Phoenix.
The survey was part of WestGroup’s monitoring of current events in January. The survey of 866 adults had a margin of error of 3 percent.
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Highest regular church attendance can be found among members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with 88 percent, the Catholic Church, with 62 percent, and non-denominational Christian churches, 60 percent.
The survey also found that regular attendance is higher for women, for higher incomes, and for Phoenix, at 53 percent, compared with Tucson, at 44 percent.
The majority of regular attendees, 66 percent or nearly two out of three, say they attend every or almost every week. But 29 percent, almost 3 of 10, of regular attendees skip services at least 12 out of 52 weeks. Those most likely to skip services were non-denominational Christians (30 percent), Catholics (28 percent) and denominational Protestants (28 percent).
Ted Apostol, president of the research company, said the survey was prompted by concerns at his own congregation, Shiloh Community Church in north Phoenix, about why as many as one-third of the members fail to show up on Sunday.
Most attributed spotty attendance to being out of town, followed by family outings and illness. More than 10 percent skipped church to catch up on work, rest or sleep.
Pastor Tom Garasha of Shiloh said he wasn’t surprised by the findings.
“Most people have a fairly low level of commitment to church,” he said. “There’s a lot to do on weekends, a lot of things competing for people’s time and energy.”
He said his church, in particular, strives to make services relevant and to connect members together in a familylike web.
“Once people feel wanted, loved and accepted, they have a higher level of commitment,” he said.
At the same time, he is considering offering a Saturday service for those who want Sundays free.
The Arizona numbers stack up well against the rest of the nation. A recent survey by Christian pollster George Barna found that 43 percent of Christian adults attend church during a typical week, a figure that has stayed consistent for 10 years. A Gallup survey of all religions also shows weekly attendance in the low 40s.