The Barna Group has released a new study on what church attenders say they get out of the experience, and folks who plan worship could profit from giving it a look.

Church should be about relating to God, right? The survey found that 66 percent of respondents said they had “connected with God” at some point in their church experience, but that means a third of people who’ve attended church claim they’ve never met God there. Among those who attend weekly, 44 percent said they felt connected with God every week, while 18 percent said they felt the connection about once per month.

Church attendance is also about social interaction, and 68 percent of all respondents said they experienced church as “part of a group of people who are united in their beliefs and who take care of each other in practical ways.” Surprisingly, church size has little impact on that figure. Age, however, does: the youngest group (18-27) was substantially less likely to say they felt like part of a united and supportive group (just 47 percent, as opposed to 71 percent for boomers [age 47-65] and busters [age 28-46] and 70 percent for the 66-and-up group).

Those of us who are preacher types like to think that church attenders take home helpful insights from our extraordinary sermons, but 61 percent of respondents said they couldn’t remember gaining a single new insight the last time they attended church. Does this mean that the sermons are lacking in significance, or failing to communicate, or that congregants just aren’t paying attention? In either case, it should gain the attention of those who plan worship and deliver sermons.

Folks who want to read more can find the full report here. As church leaders design worship services for the new year, they would do well to take a look at the survey and ask what more they can do to make worship really count for the people in the pews.


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