Pulpit oratory sits atop the list of what U.S. adults look for in choosing a local church.

The quality of sermons was a factor in choosing a local church for 83 percent of respondents, a Pew Research Center survey revealed.

Other leading influences were feeling welcomed by clergy and lay leadership (79 percent), the style of worship service (74 percent) and the church’s location (70 percent).

Children’s education was a factor for 56 percent of U.S. adults, compared to knowing people in the congregation (48 percent) and volunteering opportunities (42 percent).

Pew found that the 49 percent of respondents who “have searched for a new congregation at some point in their lives considered changing denominations while they were searching.”

The most common reason for changing churches was moving to a new place (34 percent). Other reasons include marriage or divorce (11 percent), disagreement with clergy (11 percent), problems with their former church (7 percent) and a change in personal beliefs (5 percent).

Regular church attendance (once or twice a month) was reported by 51 percent of respondents, with 23 percent noting they have always done so and 27 percent saying they attend more frequently now than they once did.

Among the 49 percent of irregular attendees (a few times a year, seldom or never), 27 percent reported always attending rarely and 22 percent noted attending less now than they did previously.

“Many of those whose religious attendance has become more frequent cite a change in their beliefs as the main reason, saying their increased attendance reflects the fact that they have become more religious or felt a need for God or religion in their lives,” Pew explained.

“By contrast, among those whose attendance has waned, the most commonly offered reasons have to do with practical concerns, including many who say they are too busy to attend or cite other practical difficulties with getting to a church, synagogue, mosque or other house of worship, depending on their religion.”

The full report is available here.

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