People become church members a lot less frequently these days when compared to 20 years ago, according to a new Gallup poll, which indicated that fewer than 47% of Americans belong to a church, synagogue or mosque.
This marks the first time membership has dropped to less than 50% in Gallup’s eight-decade trend. It’s also down a massive 20 points from 1999.
The Gallup poll indicated the change is primarily due to the rise of Americans with no religious preference. Why that’s the case is unclear. All we really know is that membership has dwindled every decade.
“U.S. church membership was 73% when Gallup first measured it in 1937 and remained near 70% for the next six decades, before beginning a steady decline around the turn of the 21st century,” per Gallup.
Along with the decline in religious preferences, the poll indicated that those who attend church regularly have not been joining their places of worship as “members” nearly as frequently as even five years ago.
“Given the nearly perfect alignment between not having a religious preference and not belonging to a church, the 13-percentage-point increase in no religious affiliation since 1998-2000 appears to account for more than half of the 20-point decline in church membership over the same time,” Gallup noted.
Last year’s poll suggested that younger people are less likely than older adults to become members of their church, perhaps another reason for the decline.
“The change has become increasingly apparent in recent decades because millennials and Gen Z are further apart from traditionalists in their church membership rates (about 30 points lower) than baby boomers and Generation X are (eight and 16 points, respectively),” Gallup noted. “Also, each year the younger generations are making up an increasingly larger part of the entire U.S. adult population.”
Still, that doesn’t fully explain the church membership data because adults in older generations have also shown double-digit decreases from 20 years ago.