Weekly church attendance in
the United States now stands at about 31 percent.
That's down from 41 percent in 1972.
W. Bradford Wilcox, a
sociologist at the University of Virginia, a considerable
portion of the decline in church attendance over the past 30
years is attributable to changes in American household
from 1970 show that 70 percent of American households
contained a married couple. About 40 percent of all
households then consisted of married couples with children.
month's report from the Census Bureau disclosed that fewer
than half of American households are now maintained by
married couples. Less than 24 percent of the nation's
homes include a husband and wife raising children.
married and having children are both associated with higher
levels of religious attendance," Wilcox says.
"Specifically, adults who are married with children are
significantly more likely to attend religious services
weekly, compared to adults who are single and/or childless."
as of 2002, 32% of
men and 39% of women who are married with children attend
church weekly, compared to 15% of men and 23% of women who
are single without children.
religious organizations have noticed this gradual but steady
erosion of church attendance. Many have surmised that
unmarried people may not be attending church very frequently
because they don't feel comfortable in a social setting
geared primarily toward married parents raising children.
more unmarried adults to church services, many congregations
are creating "singles ministries."
this month, the Charleston Gazette published a story about a
new singles ministry, SoLife, organized by Rita Morris, a
regular churchgoer who found her attendance dropping off
after her recent divorce. The purpose of the group is
to reach out to people who feel less connected with their
churches because they are single or divorced.
Last month, the Herald-Leader
focused on a singles ministry that has emerged in Lexington,
Combs, 27, who attends NorthEast Christian Church, helps
lead "The Connection" on Monday nights. About 70
adults ranging in ages from 23 to 39, attend the weekly
gathering for a night of food, worship and solidarity.
story published last month mentioned an outreach program
specifically targeting mid-life singles.
Penaranda helped organize the Phoenix-based Catholic Singles
people reach this age, they don’t have a community,”
Penaranda told the Associated Press. “They don’t really have
a place to go where they can share their hopes and dreams.”
sponsors a variety of events, ranging from prayer breakfasts
to spiritual retreats to bowling nights.
to a story published two years ago in the Christian Science
Monitor, not all church leaders are jumping on the "singles
"I will probably leave this church the day we announce we're
having a singles ministry function," Rev. Marc Dickmann told
the Monitor. Dickmann, pastor of an evangelical church
in Charlotte, N.C., feels that special outreach programs
artificially divide congregations.
Rev. John Matusiak of the Orthodox Church in America agrees.
critic of singles ministries is Chris
Seay, founding pastor of Ecclesia Church in Houston, Texas.
In a commentary written a few years ago for Leadership
Journal, Seay argued that singles ought to be
incorporated into the larger life of the congregation, not
Lafayette, Indiana, apparently aren't listening to these
dissenters. Several have formed singles ministries in
Lafayette Singles, a nondenominational group, provides a
guest speaker once a week and offers a short vesper service
conducts regular Bible
studies for single people. Growing Single, a group
affiliated with the First Assembly of God, meets for lunch
on Sundays and has fellowship nights in each others' homes.
Baptist Church has three singles ministries, organized
according to the age of participants -- college age, career
people 25-35, and singles over 35. Two local Catholic
churches have singles ministries too.
to be seen whether the trend to create singles ministries
will result an overall increase in church attendance by
single people. After all, there are many factors,
other than changes in marital status statistics,
contributing to the secularization of America.
those singles who do attend church, it's not a bad idea to
have an opportunity to gather with like-minded people who
may share similar concerns, hopes, and fears.