Peace & Justice

This is the blog of the Commission on Peace and Justice for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany, New York.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Are churches becoming more religious and less spiritual?

Peter Smith, a reporter who covers religion for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, writes about that possibility here. An excerpt regarding a survey of more than 10,000 congregations shows that many, particularly "Oldline Protestant" churches, are tanking:
Many of these same churches, according to the Faith Communities Today survey, are also putting less emphasis on spiritual activities, such as prayer and Bible study.

Veteran religion writer David Briggs poses what could be called the "duh" question: Could there be a connection?

It isn’t hard, he writes, to connect the dots. Most people go to church because — surprise — of their own personal piety. The more spiritually connected people feel, the more active they tend to be in church, and vice versa, the research shows.

Briggs, blogging for the Association of Religion Data Archives, said that if churches are struggling, perhaps that’s because they’re becoming precisely the opposite of what many people are defining themselves as: religious, but not spiritual:

It’s challenging, he acknowledges, for churches to try to pump up their spiritual vitality when membership is down, money is down and everyone is stretched and stressed:

"The loss of morale creates an environment where many say: ‘It doesn’t feel as if God is in this place,’ said David Roozen, a lead researcher of the Faith Communities Today survey.

"But part of the issue is also the choices many church leaders have made to place greater emphasis on social service programs or church committee work than on promoting spiritual growth.

We will be the first to admit there is a lesson here.

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