Report: Morality

Barna Reports, 2000

 

METHODOLOGY

Teenagers Embrace Religion but Are Not Excited About Christianity (000110)

Existing Stereotypes about African-Americans Are Way Off the Mark-and Impede Reconciliation (000201)

The Faith Factor in Election 2000: Christians Could Be a Swing Vote (000217)

Women Are the Backbone of the Christian Congregations in America (000306)

The State of the Church, 2000 (000321)

Evangelicals Are the Most Generous Givers, but Fewer than 10% of Born Again Christians Give 10% to Their Church (000405)

Americans Identify What They Want Out of Life (000426)

More Than Twenty Million Churched Adults Actively Involved in Spiritual Growth Efforts (000309)

Asians and the Affluent Are Increasingly Likely to Be Born Again (000530)

Christians Embrace Technology (000612)

Church Lay Leaders Are Different From Followers (000626)

Americans’ Bible Knowledge Is In the Ballpark, But Often Off Base (000712)

Born Again Christians Backing Bush (000911)

Barna Addresses Four Top Ministry Issues of Church Leaders (000925)

New Book by Barna Reveals Insights on Reaching the Unchurched (001009)

Teenagers’ Beliefs Moving Farther From Biblical Perspectives (001023)

Bush Decisively Won Born Again Vote, But Gore Gained Most of the Born Again Voters Who Decided Late (001113)

Discipleship Insights Revealed in New Book by George Barna (001128)

The Year’s Most Intriguing Findings, From Barna Research Studies (001212)

 

 

==============================

 

METHODOLOGY

 

The Barna Research Group, Ltd. is an independent marketing research company located in southern California. Since 1984, it has been studying cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. If you would like to receive regular e-mailings of a brief overview of each new bi-weekly update on the latest research findings from the Barna Research Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna Research web site (www.barna.org).

 

All of the interviews were conducted from the Barna Research Group telephone interviewing facility. Households were selected randomly through a random-digit dialing procedure (RDD), and the household screened for the presence of one or more teenagers. In homes with a teen, only one teenager was interviewed. Quotas were also deployed to ensure accurate regional distribution and minor statistical weighting was used to ensure that the sample reflects national demographic norms. Multiple callbacks were used to increase the probability of selecting a representative sample of households and teenagers.

 

Definitions

 

Born again Christians” were defined in these surveys as people

Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “born again.”

 

Evangelicals” are a subset of born again Christians in Barna surveys. In addition to meeting the born again criteria, evangelicals also meet seven other conditions. Those include:

Being classified as an evangelical has no relationship to church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church they attend. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”

 

Non-evangelical born again Christians” are those adults who are born again, based on the definition above, but do not meet all of the evangelical criteria as described.

 

Baby Busters were born from 1965-1983. Baby Boomers were born from 1946-1964. Builders were born from 1927-1945. Mosaics were born from 1984-2002.

 

Notional” Christians are defined as individuals who consider themselves to be Christian but either do not have a “personal commitment to Jesus Christ” or do not believe that they will experience eternal favor with God based solely on His grace and mercy. Consequently they do not fit the “evangelical” or “born again” classifications.

 

Unchurched” people were those who had not attended a church service, other than a special event such as a holiday service or a special event like a wedding or funeral, during the past six months.

 

Theolographics” refers to the spiritual practices, beliefs and self-identification of individuals.

 

==============================

 

Teenagers Embrace Religion but Are Not Excited About Christianity (000110)

 

If you want to understand the future, you have to understand those who will dictate the contours of the days to come. A new nationwide survey among teenagers, conducted by the Barna Research Group (Ventura, CA) reveals many exciting and encouraging changes that are likely to occur. But one shift that should trouble leaders in the Christian Church is the superficial relationship that most teens have with Christianity – and their plans to reduce their already minimal commitment to the Christian faith.

 

American teenagers are widely described as deeply religious individuals who have integrated their religious beliefs into their lifestyle and their thinking. This latest study among teens, however, suggests that faith is a passing fancy of young people – just one of many dimensions that they blend into a potpourri of perspectives, experiences, skills, and contexts toward arriving at their worldview and lifestyle. Neither their behavior nor their beliefs support the notions that they are deeply spiritual or truly committed to Christianity. Although their spirituality is more overt than that of their elders, teenagers are even less committed to Christianity than are the Baby Boomers.

 

Talk is Cheap

 

While teens are well-known to spend more time discussing religious matters than do older people, that running commentary on spiritual matters has yet to translate to a deeper sense of commitment to spirituality. Even when asked to describe themselves, terms that reflect a religious bent are common, but no more so than is found among adults. For instance, less than two-thirds say that they are “religious” (64%). Only three out of every five call themselves “spiritual” (60%) and the same proportion say they are “committed Christians” (60%). These figures are equivalent to those among adults.

 

It is interesting to note that among those who deem themselves to be committed Christians, only half qualify as born again Christians, a categorization that includes having “made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in [their] life today.”

 

Goals for the Future

 

One way of measuring the significance of spirituality in their lives is to explore their goals for their future. When the national sample of teens was asked to rate the desirability of each of 19 outcomes, the spiritual outcomes included in the list were of moderate significance, at best. Highest among the three religious-oriented outcomes was “having a close, personal relationship with God,” which ranked just eighth out of the nineteen possibilities. “Being deeply committed to the Christian faith” was in the bottom third of the future possibilities, ranked fourteenth. “Being personally active in a church” placed even lower, placing sixteenth. Overall, the highest-ranking options related to strong relationships and lifestyle comforts. Faith matters were substantially less compelling considerations.

 

In fact, although an overwhelming majority believes in God, just two out of three teens strongly desire having a personal relationship with Him. Similarly, although nearly nine out of ten teenagers believe that Jesus was real, and more than eight out of ten describe themselves as Christian, only half say they are very eager to be deeply committed to the Christian faith. Even fewer – just four out of ten – are excited about being active in a church.

 

Overt Commitments

 

Three key measures of faith further reveal the true nature of the spirituality of teens. Although four out of five say they are Christian, only one out of four (26%) also claims to be “absolutely committed to the Christian faith.” That is only about half the percentage found among adults – and a strong indicator of the flagging depth of loyalty Americans have in relation to its dominant faith group.

 

Another measure is that of born again Christians. Survey respondents were classified as born again if they had made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life and if they believed that after they die they will go to Heaven solely because they have confessed their sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Using this classification method just one out of every three teens (33%) is born again. Amazingly, less than half of the born again teenagers (44%) said that they are absolutely committed to the Christian faith – yet another harbinger of trouble for the future Church.

 

Barna Research surveys consistently evaluate the percentage of individuals who are evangelicals. That group is based on people who meet a series of belief-based criteria (see the survey methodology for the content of the definition). Presently, only 4% of U.S. teens fit the evangelical criteria – roughly the same as among adults (6%).

 

Current Attendance Is Deceiving

 

Perhaps the most deceptive factor is the high level of church-based involvement among today’s teenagers. This study shows that teens continue to be more broadly involved in church-based activities than are adults. In a typical week, nearly six out of ten attend worship services; one out of three attend Sunday school; one out of three attend a youth group; and three out of ten participate in a small group, other than a Sunday school class or youth group meeting. In total, more than seven out of ten teens are engaged in some church-related effort in a typical week. That far exceeds the participation level among adults – and even among teenagers’ parents!

 

But before these levels of involvement result in celebration, be warned about teens’ plans for the future. When asked to estimate the likelihood that they will continue to participate in church life once they are living on their own, levels dip precipitously, to only about one out of every three teens. Placed in context, that stands as the lowest level of expected participation among teens recorded by Barna Research in more than a decade. If the projections pan out, this would signal a substantial decline in church attendance occurring before the close of this new decade.

 

What’s Going On?

 

These statistics were collected as part of a larger study of teenagers, described in a new report by researcher George Barna, entitled “Third Millennium Teens.” Among the conclusions of the report is that teenagers are a study in contradictions. One of those is their simultaneous desire to be portrayed as religious people while they invest little of themselves in true spiritual pursuit. The research discovered that religious participation by teens is often motivation by relational opportunities rather than by the promise of spiritual development. The possibility of making and retaining friendships outstrips their commitment to deepening their faith. The relative lack of interest in maintaining church ties in the future reflects their experience with churches to date. Specifically, they do not perceive churches to be particularly helpful.

 

George Barna, who directed and analyzed the research, indicated that it is not too late to persuade teenagers to include the church in their future plans. “Most teens are desperately striving to determine a valid and compelling purpose for life. Most of them want to have influence and impact. The Church has an opportunity to address such matters and thus to position itself as a place of valuable insight and assistance.” Barna stated that young people will give the Church a chance. “But to become an accepted partner in their maturation process, the Church must earn the time and attention of teens – and that means becoming a provider of value well before their high school graduation. The failure to do so virtually guarantees that the Church will continue to see massive dropout rates among college students, with relatively few of those young people returning to the church immediately after college.”

 

Survey Methodology

 

These findings are drawn from a report on teenagers entitled “Third Millennium Teens,” written by George Barna. The report is based upon 2867 telephone interviews conducted among teens during the past three years. The data in this release comes primarily from a survey during November 1999 among 614 teenagers, ages 13 through 18, living within the 48 continental states. Each teenager was randomly selected from the national universe of teens. The estimated sampling error for that survey is +5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

 

==============================

 

Existing Stereotypes about African-Americans Are Way Off the Mark-and Impede Reconciliation (000201)

 

Next time you see an African-American person, tell yourself that what you think you know about them is probably wrong. That advice is based on a new study released by the Barna Research Group of Ventura, California, concerning African-Americans, entitled “African-Americans and Their Faith.” The study explores their lifestyles, attitudes, relationships and faith and arrives at some surprising conclusions - including many that nullify the stereotypes held of black people and black churches.

 

Life Is Good

 

A common perspective is that blacks are dissatisfied with life and have little to look forward to in the future. The research provides an entirely different portrait of blacks. They emerge as very positive and upbeat. For instance, almost nine out of ten (85%) describe themselves as “happy,” three out of four (72%) think of themselves as “successful” and half (50%) say that they are “financially comfortable.”

 

Even young blacks possess a generally upbeat attitude about their life. A survey among African-American teenagers discovered that more than nine out of ten black teens (94%) described themselves as “excited about my future.” While they are not naïve about the realities of American culture, relatively few feel burdened by insurmountable racism. Just 9% of black teens say that they feel “oppressed.”

 

The Movement Has Dissipated

 

Social analysts note that a key to building a movement is for a group to understand how it is being oppressed and to convert its suffering into a compelling cause. Possessing a common experience and perspective was key to the progress achieved by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties.

 

The prevailing stereotype is that the black population of our nation has retained its sense of community and common purpose. The research shows, however, that today most blacks do not feel that they are part of a cohesive community, perhaps due to the absence of a sense of urgency and shared perspective. Three out of every four black adults (74%) and almost two-thirds of black teenagers (62%) concur that race relations in America are getting worse rather than better. (Interestingly, whites have the opposite perspective.) But the probability of blacks banding together today to address such issues is limited by the fact that only one out of every three African-American adults (34%) claims that there is a real sense of unity among blacks these days.

 

Faith, Front and Center

 

One of the most remarkable findings of the research is the significance of faith in the lives of black Americans. Reliance on the principles of their Christian faith, more than anything else, explains how this segment has been able to maintain a positive outlook on life in the midst of challenging experiences.

 

For instance, when asked to identify their goals in life, the top-rated goal - listed as “very desirable” by 94% - was to have a close, personal relationship with God. That goal surpassed even such tangible, culturally acceptable desires as having good health and living comfortably.

 

The depth of faith among blacks was further demonstrated by the conviction, held by 92%, that in times of crisis they are “absolutely certain” that they can count on God to answer their prayers. A similar percentage of black adults also say that their faith is a source of emotional strength.

 

A majority of African-American adults even go so far as to maintain that the only reason to live is to know, love and serve God. That is a much higher proportion than is found among either whites or Hispanics. Black adults are also substantially more likely than any other ethnic group to believe that the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches.

 

Further, half of all black adults directly attribute their ability to handle prejudice and to endure the injustice that they encounter to their focus on their anticipated life after death, based on their faith in Christ.

 

There were numerous indicators of the centrality of the Christian church in the lives of black adults. Among the most telling findings was the fact that two-thirds of all African-American adults listed pastors as the most important leaders and primary spokespeople for the black community. Among the black pastors interviewed, the most commonly listed church priority was helping people in crisis. Another dominant role of the church was to bring black people together and connect them around a common purpose.

 

Differences Placed in Context

 

The profile of blacks’ attitudes and their faith commitment stands in stark contrast to the profile of the Caucasian population of the U.S. “Placing the profile of whites and blacks side by side is like looking at people from different sides of the planet,” commented George Barna, the president of the organization that conducted the research. “While whites tend to be self-reliant, blacks are more likely to rely on God. Whites persevere on the basis of their drive to achieve; blacks, on the basis of their faith. Whites turn to business leaders and government officials to represent them in the world; blacks support their religious leaders. These two groups have very divergent strategies for interpreting and dealing with virtually every aspect of life.”

 

Barna also noted that some of the stereotypes of blacks will die hard among whites. “For most whites, the perspectives of black people make no sense. Being happy in spite of a very high proportion of single-parent families, feeling financially comfortable in spite of a substantially lower household incomes, and describing themselves as successful despite being shut out of the highest ranks of government and corporate America makes no sense to the average white person. But what most whites don’t comprehend is that African-Americans perceive and approach life on the basis of completely different assumptions. This confusion explains why reconciliation efforts have largely failed in our country. Whites are trying to bring about reconciliation based on a white view of reality and within the context of white lifestyles and goals.”

 

The faith focus of blacks also prompted some unexpected comments from the California-based researcher. “The research findings demonstrate why most of the efforts at developing multi-racial congregations or creating multi-ethnic worship services fall flat. These different population groups have relatively little in common. They may believe in the same Jesus, but the ways in which they express their faith and experience their savior are radically different. Frankly, our interviews suggested that most blacks don’t have much interest in being part of a multi-racial worship experience. They don’t hate whites and they do not dismiss the white spiritual experience - but neither do they feel any need to appropriate it as their own. Their faith culture is unique and is one life element that blacks are neither willing to alter nor abandon.”

 

Research Methodology

 

These findings are based on a report about blacks entitled “African-Americans and Their Faith,” written by George Barna. The report is based upon a series of surveys conducted with African-American adults, African-American teenagers and the pastors of black churches. In total, the report includes data from interviews with more than 1100 black adults, approximately 400 black teenagers and 400 pastors of black Christian churches across the nation. All of the interviews were based on random sampling techniques and were conducted via telephone.

 

==============================

 

The Faith Factor in Election 2000: Christians Could Be a Swing Vote (000217)

 

Many of the vestiges of the political unity and power of the born again Christian population are gone. The Moral Majority has been disbanded. The Christian Coalition has shifted gears and leaders. Pat Robertson has sold his television network. Yet, the born again constituency may emerge as a key voting block in the November presidential election.

 

A new survey completed February 15 shows that born again voters are likely to represent close to 60 million votes in the general election. Of the 83 million born again adults, more than four out of five are registered - one of the largest proportions among all demographic segments in the nation. Born again voters are presently just as likely as those who are not Christian to cast a ballot in November.

 

The Horse Race

 

If the general election were held today, the born again segment would opt for George W. Bush as president, voting in his favor by a 51% to 31% margin over likely Democratic nominee Al Gore. In contrast, voters who are not born again would rather send Vice President Gore to the White House, voting for him by a 43% to 34% margin over the Texas Governor. When only the preferences of registered voters who are likely to cast a ballot in November are evaluated, the lead for Mr. Bush grows to 56% to 30% among the born again group. Among likely voters who are not born again, the Gore lead remains stable at 44% to 36%.

 

The upshot is that without the born again vote Mr. Bush would likely fall short of the votes needed to win the election. However, given the soft nature of his support from the Christian segment, the Republican front-runner would be well advised to strengthen his commitments from the Christian block. Mr. Gore, like Mr. Bush a professed born again believer, draws just one-third of his current support (37%) from the born again category. Mr. Bush gains slightly more than half of his support from the group (55%).

 

The Born Again Constituency

 

But the survey makes clear that while born again adults might help put the Republican candidate over the top - if he wins his party’s nomination - the born again constituency is far from unified in its choice. The survey points out some unexpected realities among born again adults.

* Born again Christians are more likely to be registered to vote than are non-Christians. Overall, 85% of the born again individuals are registered, compared to 75% among non-born again adults.

* Among born again adults who are registered, the same percentage are associated with the Democratic Party as with the Republican Party (35%).

* A minority of born again voters consider themselves to be conservative (43%). However, born again voters are seven times more likely to consider themselves to be conservative than to be liberal.

* Among the born again constituency, not quite one-fifth are evangelicals. Of the 57 million born again Christians who are likely to vote, 12 million are evangelicals. The evangelicals are more likely to be registered to vote, to call themselves conservative, and to be likely to vote. Evangelicals prefer Governor Bush to Vice President Gore by a 4 to 1 ratio (68% to 17%).

* The number of born again voters will be double the total number of black and Hispanic voters - combined.

* One out of every eight born again voters (13%) will be Catholic.

* Protestants and Catholics take different paths on the election. Catholics are evenly split between Mr. Bush (43%) and Mr. Gore (42%). Protestants prefer Mr. Bush by a 46% to 34% count.

 

McCain Gains Ground

 

The current results show the surging candidacy of John McCain as a substantial challenge to Mr. Bush. The Arizona Senator has risen from just 1% of the Republican vote in April of last year to 19% today - and rising. Among the Republican born again voters, the Bush’s lead over the McCain has decreased from 48 points last April to 37 points today.

 

The candidates draw from different pools of voters. The Texan is supported by Baby Boomers, adults who are married and have children in their home, by conservatives and by those in the upper income brackets. The Arizonan attracts singles, residents of the Northeast and Midwest, middle-income voters, and those who are moderate ideologically.

 

Interpretation Is Tricky

 

George Barna, president of the research firm that conducted the survey, cautioned people about interpreting the results related to a potential match-up between Bush and Gore. “The portrait often painted by the media of born again Christians is inaccurate. That group is not overwhelmingly conservative, or Republican, or unified in its views. Currently, Mr. Bush holds a lead over the Vice President among the born again group, but that support is lukewarm and susceptible to change. The born again segment is more demographically diverse than many realize. For instance, one-quarter of the group is non-white, and one-eighth is Catholic. Also remember that the candidate preferences expressed by most people are still choices in transition. There are millions of born again adults who have yet to make up their minds about whom to vote for, and many who will switch from their current choice to an alternative before election day rolls around.”

 

The candid public discussion by most of the candidates about their faith views is not surprising, according to Barna. “The candidates are well aware of the high level of interest in spiritual matters and personal faith. Addressing that topic is a means of communicating common ground and conveying a relevant message. And, of course, none of the remaining candidates has missed the fact that the born again vote represents close to half of the ballots that are likely to be cast. Currently, the born again group looks like it might cast about 45% of the votes. That’s a market share that no candidate can afford to ignore or to lose.”

 

Barna stated that in a race against Mr. Gore, Governor Bush would draw his greatest support from men, Baby Boomers, families, conservatives and born again Christians. Vice President Gore would draw his greatest allegiance from among single adults, non-whites, moderates and liberals and those who are not deeply aligned with a church or faith group.

 

Survey Methodology

 

The data described above are from telephone interviews with a nationwide random sample of 1002 adults, among whom 795 were registered to vote. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, and ±4 points for the subgroup of registered voters. All of the interviews were conducted from the Barna Research Group telephone interviewing facility in Ventura, CA. Adults in the 48 continental states were eligible to be interviewed and the distribution coincided with the geographic dispersion of the U.S. adult population. Multiple callbacks were used to increase the probability of including a reliable distribution of adults.

 

The Faith Factor in Election 2000

(N=1002; base of 795 registered voters)

 

All voters

Born again

Not born again

Protestant

Catholic

Mostly conservative

31%

43%

23%

37%

28%

Mostly moderate

49

42

54

48

52

Mostly liberal

12

6

16

7

13

Registered to vote

79

85

75

81

83

Democrat

37

35

39

36

42

Republican

29

35

25

33

26

Independent

20

18

22

19

18

Would vote for Bush

42

51

34

46

43

Would vote for Gore

38

31

43

34

42

Subgroup size

795

353

442

440

187

 

==============================

 

Women Are the Backbone of the Christian Congregations in America (000306)

 

Study Shows the Importance of Women to the Spiritual Climate of the U.S.

 

Men are the senior pastors of more than nine out of ten Protestant churches (and, of course, 100% of Catholic churches). However, a new nationwide survey from the Barna Research Group suggests that women shoulder most of the responsibility for the health and vitality of the Christian faith in the country.

 

Without women, Christianity would have nearly 60% fewer adherents. The survey data show that nearly half of the nation’s women have beliefs which classify them as born again (46%), compared to just about one-third of men (36%).1 In other words, there are between 11 million and 13 million more born again women than there are born again men in the country.

 

Christianity is still the “faith-of-choice” among Americans, but particularly among women. When asked to identify their religious affiliation, 9 out of every 10 women nationwide (90%) said that they consider themselves to be Christian (compared to 83% of men).

 

Spiritual Heavy-Weights

 

One of the characteristics of women that emerges from the research is their high degree of spiritual depth. Nearly 8 out of every 10 women (79%) said that the term “spiritual” describes them accurately (contrasted with just 63% of men). Almost 7 out of every 10 female respondents (69%) resonated with the phrase “deeply spiritual” (among men, it was only 50%).

 

Perhaps even more indicative of women’s sense of spiritual focus, 41% of women said that they have set specific spiritual goals that they hope to accomplish in the coming year or two; only 29% of men have identified such spiritual objectives.

 

Women are also more likely to acknowledge a significant faith commitment. Three-quarters of women (75%) said that their religious faith is very important in their life. That compares to just 3 out of every 5 men (60%) who indicated that their religious commitment is a critical aspect of their life.

 

Matters of Practice

 

Although women account for half of the U.S. adult population, they represent a majority of religiously active individuals in 12 out of the 13 religious activities examined. Women’s participation levels outdistance that of men in the following areas:

 

 

The only religious activity in which men and women were equally likely to participate was meeting with a mentor or spiritual coach (19% of women and 19% of men were involved in such a relationship).

 

Family Spirituality

 

George Barna, president of the firm that conducted the research, commented about the role of men in the spiritual life of the family. “In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about men and women sharing household responsibilities more equally. Despite such an egalitarian vision, in most cases, roles are still often determined based upon gender - but that is especially true when it comes to the responsibility for the family’s spiritual health and growth. Women, more often than not, take the lead role in the spiritual life of the family. Women typically emerge as the primary - or only - spiritual mentor and role model for family members. And that puts a tremendous burden on wives and mothers.”

 

“If the Church is to stem the tide of biblical illiteracy and waning commitment to the Christian faith, men will have to reestablish themselves as partners and leaders of the spiritual functions of families. The family unit is the key for spiritual growth and maturation in our decentralized, relationally isolated culture. The apparent lack of spiritual leadership exhibited by millions of Christian men has significantly hampered the spiritual growth of tens of thousands of well-meaning but spiritually inert families.”

 

Pursuing “Happiness”

 

Women’s high levels of affiliation with, commitment to, and participation in Christianity should not come as a surprise. Researchers note that a person’s actions are typically a reflection of his or her most important goals and priorities. While men typically emphasize such issues as career attainment, achieving financial independence, and decision-making competence, most women place a premium on matters of faith.

 

When asked to identify conditions that would create a desirable life, three-quarters of U.S. women (75%) said that having a close personal relationship with God was a “very” desirable life condition (among men, the figure was 65%). This priority was only ranked behind the objectives having one marriage partner for life and having good health. Other desirable life conditions that were equally highly-ranked by women included having a clear purpose for life, living with a high degree of integrity, and having close, personal friendships.

 

Overall, 3 out of every 5 U.S. women (59%) indicated that being deeply committed to the Christian faith is a very desirable life pursuit - but one that emerged as a top objective among a minority of men (47%). Further, half of all women (49%) strongly desire to be personally active in a church, compared to just one-third of men (35%).

 

Losing the Faith

 

While Barna was upbeat about women’s emphasis on faith, he sounded a note of caution regarding the high price women may pay for carrying excessive levels of spiritual responsibility. “While women represent the lion’s share of Christians and the majority of participants in religious activities, many women appear to be burning out from their intense levels of involvement. Maybe most telling has been a 22% slip in church attendance since 1991 (55% to 45%). There has also been a 21% decline in the percentage of women who volunteer to help a church (29% in 1991 and 24% in 2000). Women’s monumental effort to support the work of the Christian Church may be running on fumes.”

 

“Churches need to consider whether or not they are providing sufficient opportunities for women to receive ministry and not just provide ministry to others. We may continue to see tens of thousands of women leaving the church unless there is a widespread, aggressive, thoughtful approach to recognizing and appreciating women. At the same time we must impress upon men the importance that they model spiritual maturity and more actively participate in the life of the Church.”

 

Barna also noted that another significant concern is the low levels of religious participation among women who are members of the Buster generation - those who are 34 and younger. For virtually every religious activity measured, Buster women - not unlike Buster men - were less likely than older generations to participate in such spiritual pursuits. The exception was meeting with a spiritual mentor or coach. Barna indicated that thus far it appears that the Church has not adequately addressed the needs of this generation.

 

There were several other patterns that were interesting to note:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Survey Methodology

 

The research is based upon six telephone surveys among 4,755 adults over the age of 18 who reside in the 48 continental states - 2,439 of the interviews were with women and 2,316 were among men. The estimated sampling error for the survey is +2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The surveys were conducted in 1999 and in the first two months of 2000. All of the interviews were based on random sampling techniques and were conducted via telephone.

 

Women’s Faith Activities in the Nineties activities in the last seven days

 

ACTIVITY

‘91

‘93

‘95

‘97

‘99

‘00

attended a small group

--

22%

20%

19%

20%

20%

attended a Sunday school class

--

--

18

23

21

22

volunteered to help a church

29

29

24

27

25

24

church attendance

55

53

48

49

43

45

reading the Bible

--

40

39

38

39

45

donating to a church in last 30 days

--

50

--

59

55

59

shared faith with someone else

--

--

--

25

24

27

 

Gender Differences in Religious Affiliation and Involvement

(percent of each group)

*Activities in the last 7 days

 

WOMEN

MEN

self-identified Christians

90%

83%

born again Christians 1

46

36

evangelical Christians 2

9

8

unchurched (not been to church in six mos.)

38

28

consider themselves to be “spiritual”

79

63

“deeply spiritual”

69

50

set spiritual goals for next two years

41

29

religious faith is very important in their life

75

60

absolutely commited to the Christian faith

46

32

involved in a discipleship process

14

7

attend adult Sunday school*

22

14

attend a small group*

20

13

have had leadership position at a church

14

9

currently discipling someone else

19

13

have devotional or quiet time*

61

44

volunteer to help a church*

24

18

read the Bible*

45

35

attend church service*

45

35

share their faith with others (past year)

27

21

donate to a church (last 30 days)

58

48

pray to God

89

77

meeting with a mentor or spiritual coach

19

19

 

==============================

 

The State of the Church, 2000 (000321)

 

If there is comfort in stability, then there is little doubt that Christianity in America is in the comfort zone. The annual tracking study of religious beliefs and behavior conducted by the Barna Research Group (Ventura, California) shows that there has been no change in nine of the ten factors the company follows in its yearly tracking survey.

 

Church Attendance

 

Four out of every ten adults (40%) attend a church service on a typical Sunday. That figure is a significant decline from the early Nineties, when close to half of all adults were found in churches on Sunday, but the figure is relatively unchanged since 1994. Baby Busters, who range from 18 to 34, are notably less likely than older adults to attend services (28% compared to 51% of adults 55 or older). Women remain more likely to attend church than are men, although the attendance of females is declining in recent years. (It has remained unchanged among men.) Adults who are conservative on social and political matters are almost twice as likely to attend church as are adults who describe themselves as liberal on such issues (53% vs. 28%, respectively). Attendance levels are still higher in the “Bible belt” areas - the South and Midwest - than in the Northeast and West. Born again Christians are more than twice as likely to attend church services as are adults who have not accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.

 

Born Again Christians

 

Born again Christians - defined in the surveys as people who say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who say they know they will go to Heaven after they die because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior - still represent about four out of every ten adults (41%). (In the surveys people are not asked if they consider themselves to be “born again” - this is not a self-identification measure.) That figure has remained statistically unchanged since 1995. Women are more likely to be born again than are men - about half of all women and one-third of all men. Baby Busters are less likely to be born again than are older adults. Blacks are more likely to qualify than are whites, with Hispanics the least likely of all.

 

Six out of ten adults who attend a Protestant church are born again Christians, compared to one out of four Catholics. However, Catholics represent about one out of every eight born again adults (13%).

 

Conservatives are more than twice as likely to be born again as are liberals (57% vs. 22%, respectively). However, the delineation is not as clear cut in relation to political party registration: 53% of Republicans are born again, compared to 41% among Democrats. Forty percent of independents are born again. Just one-quarter of the adults who are not registered to vote are born again.

 

The proportion of born again Christians has remained consistent since 1995, hovering in the 39% to 43% range during that period. The current figure does appear to be an increase over the level measured in the early nineties (when born again Christians averaged 36%).

 

Evangelicals

 

This group, which is a subset of the born again population, is measured in relation to nine different belief measures. In addition to being born again, they have a traditional, biblical view of God; believe the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; say that Satan is a real spiritual entity; contend that Jesus never committed a sin; and believe that salvation is by God’s grace and cannot be earned by good behavior. They also say that their religious faith is very important in their life and that they have a personal responsibility to share their faith in Christ with non-believers. This niche represents 8% of the adult population - a level that has not changed since 1993, when it was at 11%.

 

The evangelicals, though small in number, are the most religiously active. They have the highest rates of church attendance (80% in a typical week), Bible reading (92% in a typical week), sharing their faith in Christ (81% in the past year), Sunday school attendance (60% in a typical week), donating money to their church (94% did so in the past month) and volunteering at the church (48% in a typical week).

 

Bible Reading

 

In the early Nineties, Bible reading was “in.” From the mid-nineties to late Nineties, it was out of fashion. Bible reading appears to be making a comeback, reaching 40% of adults now reading the Bible in a typical week. The growth in Bible reading seems to be fueled by greater commitment among blacks, low-income individuals, and men. Despite the rising readership levels among men, though, women are still substantially more likely than men to read the Bible during a typical week. Bible reading is much more common in the South than in any of the other regions of the nation.

 

Protestant adults are much more likely than Catholic adults to read the Bible during the week (53% vs. 38%, respectively). Born again Christians are three times more likely than non-born again adults to read the Bible (65% vs. 23%), but not as likely as evangelicals (92%).

 

Other Forms of Involvement

 

The other major forms of religious activity measured showed no signs of change. Those activities include:

 

 

Other Interesting Facts

 

The annual survey produced some other intriguing results, according to George Barna, president of the company that conducts the survey. “In a typical week, about four out of every ten people sitting in the pews of Christian churches are not born again. Although the figures are substantially different in Protestant churches than Catholic churches, more than one-third of the Protestant attenders are not born again. They certainly represent an accessible and fertile mission field for churches that have a desire to introduce people to the notion of salvation by grace.”

 

Barna also pointed out that Catholics are much more likely to attend megachurches - defined as churches that have more than 1000 adults attending their weekend services - than are Protestants. “Catholics are 22% of the adult population, but they constitute 47% of those who attend a megachurch. Even though megachurches are seen as a Protestant phenomenon, barely half (53%) of the adults attending megachurches go to a Protestant church. That represents about one out of every ten adults attending a Protestant church and projects to about 5 million of the 53 million adults attending a Protestant church in a typical week.”

 

Addressing some of the current thinking in religious circles, Barna referred to some of those perspectives as “myths.” “There does not seem to be revival taking place in America. Whether that is measured by church attendance, born again status, or theological purity, the statistics simply do not reflect a surge of any noticeable proportions. The increase in Bible reading may be setting the stage for such a revival, but it does not appear to be occurring at the moment.”

 

Barna, who has been tracking religious beliefs and behavior in national surveys since 1981, also addressed the notion of a Christian men’s movement. “There is reason to believe that America experienced a small increase in the proportion of men who are born again between 1990 and 2000. However, the proportion is not quite beyond the range that can be explained by sampling error alone. We also find that the increase in the proportion of women who are born again was double that of men during the past decade. Church attendance among men has dropped in the past decade, as has Bible reading, Sunday school attendance and church volunteerism. Some good things have happened among men during the Nineties, but it does not appear that there has been a massive reawakening of the male soul in the last ten years.”

 

The researcher also added a note of encouragement to church leaders. “It is important to realize that there are some signs of continued interest and growth. The level of importance assigned by people to their religious faith is very high - two-thirds say their faith is very important to them. More than four out of five people pray during the week. Bible reading is on the increase. Half of all adults claim to have a devotional or quiet time at least once during a typical week. And the fact that church attendance has remained stable while participation in virtually every other form of traditional activity - including the frequency of watching television, exercising, reading for pleasure, and spending time with the family - has declined in recent years. Spirituality remains important to people, but we’re still in a shake-up period where people are trying to discover how to fit it into their increasingly fragmented, busy and changing lives. Few people are seeking to remove God from their life. They’re just not sure when and how often they will pencil Him into their schedule.”

 

Survey Methodology

 

The data described above are from telephone interviews with a nationwide random sample of 1002 adults. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The data for previous years’ surveys was conducted in the same manner, using the same sampling techniques and survey questions, and also based on samples of 1000 or more randomly selected adults.

 

The State of the Church in America: activities done in the past 7 days

(based on national random samples of 1,000 adults)

*indicates that the data in question are the measure being displayed.

 

 

born again

attended church

read the Bible

 

1991

1995

2000

1991

1995

2000

1991

1995

2000

All adults

35%

39%

41%

49%

42%

40%

45%

31%

40%

Protestants

52

57

60

56

47

47

62

42

53

Catholics

16

22

23

59

46

49

26

20

25

Men

32

36

36

42

36

35

40

23

35

Women

38

42

46

55

48

45

50

39

46

Evangelicals

*

*

*

N/A

85

80

N/A

84

92

Born again

*

*

*

66

66

60

71

58

65

Not born again

*

*

*

39

29

27

31

16

23

Northeast

28

30

29

43

41

32

33

30

31

South

46

48

56

52

46

44

55

35

53

Midwest

32

40

42

55

46

44

49

31

35

West

31

32

31

46

36

37

39

28

34

 

==============================

 

Evangelicals Are the Most Generous Givers, but Fewer than 10% of Born Again Christians Give 10% to Their Church (000405)

 

As millions of Americans focus on submitting this year’s tax forms before the mid-April deadline, a new survey conducted by the Barna Research Group shows that although most people can claim a deduction for charitable giving, relatively few people proved to be substantial givers. Among the most surprising findings is that born again Christians are much more generous than the norm, but very few give 10% or more of their income - a proportion described in the Bible as a “tithe” - to their church.

 

Most People Share Their Wealth

 

More than four out of every five adults donated some money to non-profit organizations last year. Eighty four percent made at least one donation during the year, which is a slight decrease from the 87% who did so in 1998. The people most likely to share their wealth with others were evangelicals (93%), Builders (ages 54-72, of whom 93% gave), people from households making over $60,000 (93%), and political conservatives (91%). The people least likely to give contributions included adults who do not attend a church (27% of whom made no donations last year); Baby Busters (21%); Hispanics (24%); people with household incomes under $30,000 (25%); political moderates (20%); individuals who are not registered to vote (24%); and adults who are not born again Christians (20%).

 

The median amount of money given to non-profits and churches by the typical adult last year was $300. That is a 14% decline from 1998 levels ($350 median per person). Even more telling was the decline in the mean total gift amount. The average for 1999 was $1045 per adult. That represents a 24% decline from 1998, when the average cumulative giving was $1377. The subgroups with the highest average giving were evangelical Christians ($2476); households making $60,000 or more ($1687); born again Christians ($1651); registered Republicans ($1612); college graduates ($1599); political conservatives ($1533); people 54 or older ($1341); and residents of the South ($1281).

 

Among the largest declines in mean giving were the 36% drop in giving from non-born again adults. The decline among born again Christians was only 13% - substantial, but well below the 24% national decrease.

 

Overall, one out of every four adults (26%) donated more than $1000 to charities, churches and other non-profits during the past year. That percentage remained unchanged from the year before.

 

Giving to Churches Increases

 

In opposition to the decreased overall giving of donors, churches actually received more money from adults in 1999 than they did in the previous year. Although there was no change in the proportion who failed to donate anything to churches (34%) compared to 1998, the average (mean) cumulative giving to churches rose from $750 to $806 per adult in 1999, a jump of 7%. The median donation level remained constant, at $100. (The median is the level at which there are equal numbers of people who gave less than the median as gave more. The huge disparity between the mean and median figures underscores the fact that there are substantial numbers of people whose giving is extreme - i.e., either very low or very high.)

 

Church donations increased among born again Christians in 1999. The median rose by 25% (to $500 per person) while the mean increased by 7% (to $1439). The median among non-born again adults nudged forward from $18 to $20, while the mean also inched ahead (from $378 to $386, a gain of 2%). Oddly, giving by the most committed segment - evangelicals - actually dropped by 1%, from a mean of $2380 in 1998 to $2346 in 1999.

 

The size of the church a person attends is related to their giving habits. Churches that attract limited numbers of people also raise the least money per person. Among adults attending churches of less than 100 adults - which make up a majority of America’s Protestant churches - the average (mean) donation was $488 over the course of the year. Adults attending churches of 100 to 200 adults donated a cumulative mean of $794 - 63% more than those in small churches donated. People attending churches of 201 to 999 adults contributed a mean of $1561 in 1999 - more than three times the average in the smallest churches. Giving dropped off a bit in churches attracting 1000 or more adults, to $1462.

 

Churches Get the Lion’s Share

 

According to survey respondents, about three-quarters of every donated dollar wound up going to churches or religious centers. For many people, all or most of their giving went to their church. For instance, among both evangelicals and African-American adults an average of 95% of their aggregate donations was given to churches. On average, 91 cents out of every dollar given by residents of the South went to their church, while 87 cents out of every dollar given by all born again Christians went to their church. Individuals who described themselves as politically conservative assigned 89% of their aggregate giving to churches.

 

The segments that devoted the smallest percentages of their giving to churches included the unchurched (whose median gift to churches was zero, but whose mean gift of $156 represented 40% of their yearly giving), Hispanics (59% of their donations went to churches), Baby Busters (60%) and non-born again adults (60%).

 

Protestant adults proved to be more generous, in every measure, than were Catholics. Based on mean dollars donated in 1999, Protestant adults gave 57% more money away to all non-profits ($1325 versus $846, respectively); gave away 86% more money to churches ($1084 versus $584); and donated a larger share of their charitable gifts to churches (82% versus 69%).

 

Tithing Is Rare

 

One of the central teachings of many Protestant churches is that the Bible commands people to donate ten percent of the annual income to the church. The survey confirmed that the admonition is rarely followed. One out of every six born again Christians (16%) gave no money to his/her church during 1999. The proportion who tithed to their church was just 8%.

 

In general, the more money a person makes the less likely he/she is to tithe. While 8% of those making $20,000 or less gave at least 10% of their income to churches, that proportion dropped to 5% among those in the $20,000-$29,999 and $30,000-$39,999 categories; to 4% among those in the $40,000-$59,999 range, down to 2% for those in the $60,000-$74,999 niche; and to 1% for those making $75,000-$99,999. The level jumped a bit for those making $100,000 or more, as 5% of the most affluent group tithed in 1999.

 

Comments on the Research

 

The relative generosity of born again and evangelical Christians is paradoxical in the eyes of George Barna, president of the company that conducted the research. “On the one hand, evangelicals and born again Christians should be commended for modeling generosity within a culture that esteems giving a helping hand more than it actually gives such a hand. By giving more than double the national average of their income to non-profits and churches evangelicals have set a great example for others to follow. At the same time, however, the vast majority of those individuals attend churches that teach a biblical responsibility to tithe. The fact that fewer than one out of every ten born again believers does so suggests that financial stewardship is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges facing the Christian Church in America today.”

 

The researcher also lamented the declining sum of money going to all charitable and religious causes. “Most analysts would agree that 1999 was one of the best financial years we have experienced in a long time. If we experience declining generosity by Americans during a period of unusual financial favor, what should we expect when the economy hits a downturn? And as government leaders continue to push for more church-based and private initiatives to address America’s growing list of social ills and cultural challenges, how can churches realistically take on such responsibilities? Churches cannot solve all of the nation’s problems. But if they are to handle a significant share of the needs experienced in their communities, the typical Christian household will have to ante up more than 2% of their income to finance life-changing ministry activities - especially if they recognize tithing as one of God’s requirements for their life.”

 

Survey Methodology

 

The data described above are from telephone interviews with a nationwide random sample of 1002 adults. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The data for previous years’ survey was conducted in the same manner, using the same sampling techniques and survey questions, and also based on a sample of 1002 randomly selected adults.

 

The figures regarding tithing were derived by dividing the total amount of money donated by the respondent to churches into the respondent’s total household income for 1999. The information is not based on respondents reporting whether or not they tithed.

Average Giving to Non-Profit Organizations and Churches

(mean giving; national random sample of 1002 adults)

 

population segment

total giving

church giving

total % of giving to churches

all adults

$1045

$806

77%

Baby Busters (ages 18-34)

$589

$353

60%

Baby Boomers (ages 35-53)

$1248

$984

79%

Builders (ages 54-72)

$1326

$1205

91%

Seniors (ages 73+)

$1389

$997

72%

Males

$1036

$770

74%

Females

$1055

$845

80%

Income Under $30,000

$453

$338

75%

Income $30,000-$59,999

$1076

$841

78%

Income $60,000 or more

$1687

$1343

80%

Politically conservative

$1533

$1365

89%

Politically moderate

$845

$582

69%

Politically liberal

$932

$618

66%

Evangelicals

$2476

$2346

95%

Born Again

$1651

$1439

87%

Non-born again

$644

$386

60%

Protestant

$1325

$1084

82%

Catholic

$846

$584

69%

 

==============================

 

Americans Identify What They Want Out of Life (000426)

 

Of 21 possible goals for the future, adults rated good health as their most coveted future reality - by a considerable margin. Nine out of ten adults cherish good physical health. That outcome was the top-rated goal of Americans a decade ago, too.

 

Four out of five adults stated that living with a high degree of integrity is a very desirable goal for their future. Almost as many people want to have one marriage partner for life (79%).

 

Three-quarters of the adult population said that having close, personal friendships is a top priority. That level of interest in meaningful relationships has remained constant over the past decade. The same proportion of adults also reveres having a clear purpose for living. Slightly fewer Americans - seven out of ten - indicated that having a close personal relationship with God is a top priority in their life.

 

Roughly six out of ten married adults listed a satisfying sexual relationship with their spouse as a top priority. Having a comfortable lifestyle and living close to family and relatives also emerged with similar levels of interest. About half of all married adults listed having children, being deeply committed to the Christian faith, being knowledgeable about current events and making a difference in the world as top-level personal priorities.

 

Fewer than half of all adults suggested that the remaining eight options were very desirable personal outcomes for their future. Those included being active in a church, having a college degree, influencing other people’s lives, working in a high-paying job, traveling throughout the world for pleasure, and owning a large home. The lowest-rated items were to own the latest household technology and electronics, and to achieve fame or public recognition.

 

Changes in the Past Decade

 

People’s priorities have not changed much in the past decade. Comparing the responses to the February survey with a similar survey in February 1991, the outcomes look virtually identical. There have been three shifts worth noting.

 

In 1991, 67% of all adults said that living close to family and relatives was a top priority. Interest in such proximity has declined to 60%. The 1991 research also found that half of the adult population (50%) expressed high interest in being part of a local church. That interest has diminished to about four out of ten adults (42%) today. The previous survey reported that while more than one-third of all adults wanted a high-paying job back then (36%), closer to one-quarter of the adult population (29%) now prioritizes that outcome.

 

Adults and Teenagers Differ

 

The time-honored distinctions between adults and teens are reflected in a comparison of the life goals of these two groups. Teens, not surprisingly, have placed a stronger emphasis on obtaining a college degree (88% say that is a top priority for their life, making it their top-rated goal) as well as on having close friendships (84%) and achieving a comfortable lifestyle (83%). Teens are more than 50% more likely than adults to list influencing other people’s lives as a major goal, twice as likely to prioritize a high-paying job, and three times more likely to cite ownership of the latest household technology and electronics as a top objective.

 

Despite the well-documented interest in spirituality among teenagers, they are slightly less likely than adults to prioritize a close relationship with God and are no more likely than adults to prioritize a deep commitment to the Christian faith or active involvement in a church. Drawing on information from a newly-released report on teenagers, Third Millennium Teens, survey director George Barna also pointed out that teenagers are more likely than adults to participate in church-based activities, but that their involvement often has more to do with being among friends than with their devotion to the faith focus of the church.

 

Born Again Christians Similar to Others

 

The research distinguished between the goals of adults who are born again Christians and those who are not1. The distinctions, however, are surprisingly few in number.

 

The Christian group expressed notably higher levels of interest in being active in a church (71% of the born again group compared to 22% of all others); having a close, personal relationship with God (93% versus 55%, respectively); and being deeply committed to the Christian faith (83% vs. 32%). The born again adults were also more likely to list influencing other people (48% vs. 30%), making a difference in the world (58% vs. 39%) and having a clear purpose for living (85% vs. 68%) as top goals.

 

The goals of born again adults show little change from those identified in 1991. Of the ten items asked in both years, significant change has occurred in relation to just three areas. There has been a decline in the percentage of born again Christians who want to live close to family and relatives (down seven percentage points), a six-point drop in those who want to influence other people’s lives, and a 10-point decline in those who prioritize having a high-paying job.

 

Comments on the Findings

 

George Barna, the president of the firm that conducted the surveys, stated that the changes that have occurred conflict with the expectations of some people. “The prevailing wisdom is that interest in religion has increased, that teenagers are focused primarily on quality of life issues and that born again Christians are outer-directed. In light of those views, the survey data provide some surprising findings. For instance, if spiritual revival were occurring, you’d expect to see increasing levels of interest in a relationship with God, in church involvement and in commitment to the Christian faith. None of those are evident. If teenagers were on the leading edge of altruistic living, you’d see their levels of interest in integrity, faith and a modest lifestyle surpassing the levels of adults. We do not see that. And if Christians were truly focused on serving others, you’d expect to see much larger percentages of them committed to influencing other people and to making a difference in the world. That, too, is not evident.”

 

Barna did point out that some of the distinctions between teenagers and adults confirm existing notions of how the two groups approach life. “Teenagers are typically interested in personal relationships and in impacting the world. They view education, money and technology as critical tools toward having such influence. They are not as likely as adults to see faith as a means to that kind of influence, although they are open to being affected by faith principles.”

 

The survey results strike Barna as an indication of business as usual. “Americans have endured a lot of significant changes and shaping events in the past decade. Yet, the basic priorities of most people have remained unaffected by those events and influences. People still want health, relationships and meaning more than anything else. They are less beholden to the tools that will facilitate those outcomes than they are to the outcomes themselves.”

 

Survey Methodology

 

The data described above are from telephone interviews with a nationwide random sample of 1002 adults conducted in February. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. All of the interviews were conducted from the Barna Research Group telephone interviewing facility in Ventura, CA. Adults in the 48 continental states were eligible to be interviewed and the distribution coincided with the geographic dispersion of the U.S. adult population. Multiple callbacks were used to increase the probability of obtaining a reliable distribution of adults. The statistics from the 1991 survey were based on 1005 interviews with a national random sample of adults. The survey among teenagers was conducted in November, 1998 among 605 randomly selected individuals from 13 to 18 years of age.

 

What Americans Consider to be Very Desirable for Their Future

 

All Adults

Born again

 

Teens

 

 

2000

1991

2000

1991

1998

having good physical health

91%

93%

92%

94%

87%

living with a high degree of integrity

81

NA

86

NA

71

having one marriage partner for life

79

NA

85

NA

82

having close, personal friendships

75

73

79

75

84

having a clear purpose for living

75

NA

85

NA

77

having a close relationship with God

70

72

93

93

66

having a satisfying sex life with

 

 

 

 

 

your marriage partner

63

NA

66

NA

55

having a comfortable lifestyle

61

59

58

57

83

living close to your family and relatives

60

67

65

72

49

having children

55

NA

60

NA

54

being deeply committed to the Christian faith

53

NA

83

NA

50

being knowledgeable about current events

50

NA

53

NA

NA

making a difference in the world

47

NA

58

NA

56

being personally active in a church

42

50

71

75

43

having a college degree

41

NA

43

NA

88

influencing other people’s lives

37

40

48

54

56

working in a high-paying job

29

36

26

36

55

traveling throughout the world for pleasure

26

NA

22

NA

NA

owning a large home

21

23

17

21

28

owning the latest household technology

 

 

 

 

 

and electronic equipment

9

NA

10

NA

27

achieving fame or public recognition

6

10

6

12

18

sample size

1002

1005

410

355

605

 

==============================

 

More Than Twenty Million Churched Adults Actively Involved in Spiritual Growth Efforts (000309)

 

In recent years there has been increased interest in spiritual matters. For millions of adults in America, the spiritual insights they glean from church services on Sunday morning just aren’t enough. A new survey released today by the Barna Research Group of Ventura, California, shows that one out of every six adults who attends Christian church services during the year (16%) also gets involved in some type of process that involves guidance from other people that is designed to help him or her grow spiritually. Commonly referred to by churches as “discipleship,” that represents roughly 22 million adults who participate in such a growth process.

 

Who Gets Involved

 

The survey showed that involvement in discipleship efforts varied among population groups. For instance, women are almost twice as likely as men to be involved in discipleship (20% vs. 11%, respectively). Past commitment to education also seems to foretell one’s likelihood of engagement in spiritual growth activities, since college graduates are nearly twice as likely as adults without a college degree to engage in discipleship endeavors (22% vs. 13%). As expected born again Christians are more than twice as likely as non-born again adults to be involved (21% vs. 9%).

 

Although discipleship is generally thought of as an activity promoted by Protestants, millions of Catholic adults are engaged in some form of personal discipleship, too. While Protestants outnumber Catholics almost six to one in the total number of adults involved, an estimated four million Catholic adults are currently being discipled by other people. Overall, 18% of Protestant adults engage in personal discipleship; 8% of Catholic adults do so.

 

Age is related to the pursuit of spiritual growth in this manner, too. The two generations most likely to engage in discipleship efforts were Baby Boomers (22% of those of ages 35 to 53) and Seniors (24% among people 73 or older). Although Baby Busters (ages 16 to 34) are the age group most likely to think of themselves as invested in spirituality, and are also the group most likely to engage in group activities, only 9% of the Busters who attend church services at least occasionally are involved in any type spiritual growth process.

 

The Spiritual Growth Process

 

Discipleship takes many forms, but by far the most common in use today is through small groups. Currently, seven out of every ten people involved in discipleship (69%) seek their spiritual development through participation in a small group that meets to study the Bible and consider spiritual realities together.

 

Less common discipleship activities include involvement in a Sunday school class (undertaken by 20% of those involved in discipleship); a one-to-one mentoring relationship (14%); a special faith-oriented class (11%); and online training and interaction geared to discipleship (3%).

 

There are regional differences in approaches to discipleship. While small groups are found throughout the nation, adults in the South remain somewhat less likely to rely on small groups for spiritual growth. Barely half of all churched adults in the South who engage in discipleship look to small groups as their means of development. Discipled adults in the South are more likely than adults elsewhere to attend a Sunday school class or some other type of Christian education class. One-to-one spiritual mentoring has been growing rapidly in recent years, but remains least likely to occur in the Northeast.

 

Church Emphasis

 

One reason for the widespread engagement in spiritual discipleship efforts is the sense adults get from their church that such an effort is critical to spiritual growth. Four out of ten adults who attend Christian churches (41%) said that they perceive discipleship to be among the two or three highest priorities of their church. Another one out of four (27%) said their church communicates that discipleship is important, although it is not one of their church’s priorities. The remaining one-third of all churched adults said discipleship is not a priority in their church.

 

The survey showed that African-American adults were both more likely than white or Hispanic adults to engage in discipleship efforts, and were also more likely to perceive their church to define discipleship as a personal priority. Black adults were 50% more likely than white adults to be involved in discipleship, and black adults were the only group of which a majority said their church deems discipleship to be among its highest priorities.

 

The Need is Obvious

 

George Barna, whose company conducted the survey, noted that personal commitment to discipleship is one of the greatest needs in the Christian Church in America. “In a society as fast-moving and complex as ours, people have to make choices every minute of the day. Unless people have regular and focused exposure to the foundations of their faith, as well as fellow believers who will support them in understanding and applying that faith, the chances of Christians consistently making choices that reflect biblical principles are minimal. In fact, even four out of every ten individuals currently involved in a Christian discipling process contend that there is no such thing as absolute moral truth. There is a lot of good intent but serious theological confusion among Christians in our culture today. The need for Bible-based discipleship is huge.”

 

Barna is preparing to tour the country with a one-day seminar in which he will be revealing a large body of new research on discipleship practices. That research includes information about how churches are most effectively enabling individuals to participate in and grow from an effective discipleship process. “An important finding is that discipleship does not happen in a vacuum. The people look for cues from their leaders as to what it means to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. One of the reasons why five out of six active church-goers do not engage in discipleship is because only one out of every three church leaders models that behavior for them. Although pastors and lay leaders might talk about the importance of spiritual development, unless the people in the pews see the church’s leaders making the effort and sacrifices to grow spiritually, the people will be less likely to take that call to action seriously.” Barna also noted that in churches where a larger percentage of the people engage in discipleship, the church’s leaders may be required to be active in both discipling other people and being discipled by someone else.

 

Survey Methodology

 

The data described above are from telephone interviews with a nationwide random sample of 1002 adults conducted in February. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

 

==============================

 

Asians and the Affluent Are Increasingly Likely to Be Born Again (000530)

 

More than a half trillion dollars has been spent by Christian churches and parachurch ministries in the past decade. What has happened as a result? One outcome has been a change in the demographic profile of the adults who are born again Christians. As expected, women are more likely than men to be born again; whites comprise three-quarters of the born again segment; and married adults are much more likely than singles to have embraced Jesus Christ as their savior. However, compared to a decade ago the likelihood of being born again has increased significantly among people 50 or older, adults from affluent households, residents of the South, and Asians. And while education was once deemed a detriment to one’s willingness to follow Christ, schooling no longer makes much of a difference in a person’s response to Christ.

 

Ethnic Change

 

The most astounding growth in the likelihood of accepting Jesus Christ as savior has occurred among Asian-Americans. If spiritual revival has occurred among any group of people in the U.S. in the past decade, it is undeniably among Asians. In 1991, only 5% of them had made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ and believed that they would have eternal life because they had accepted Him as their savior. That figure has jumped by 440%, to 27% who now claim Christ to be their savior. In fact, the percentage of Asian-Americans who have accepted Christ has now eclipsed that of Hispanic-Americans (27% to 23%). The percentage of Hispanics in America who have embraced Christ as their savior has remained unchanged since 1991.

 

The Rich Are Buying Into Jesus

 

Another major shift has been the growth of born again Christians among the affluent. In 1991, just 13% of all born again adults were from households earning $60,000 or more. Today, almost twice as many born again adults – 25% – hail from upscale households, reflecting a 92% increase during the Nineties. This increase is due to two changes: the increase in the number of households that make $60,000 or more, and an increased likelihood of people in the upper income levels accepting Christ as their savior.

 

Location, Location, and Location

 

While the South has traditionally been deemed the heartland of American Christianity – as exemplified by the notion of a “Bible Belt” – the last ten years have ushered in an era of heightened spiritual growth even in that spiritually-charged region. While there has been no increase in the likelihood of adults accepting Christ as their savior in either the Northeast or in the West, there has been a 22% increase in the South. In fact, there are 40% more born again adults living in the South than in the Northeast and West combined. The fourteen states of the South contain one-third (33%) of the nation’s population, but almost half of America’s born again adults (45%). There has been a sizable increase in the Midwest (28%) although its effect is not as pronounced since the population of the central states is smaller.

 

Faith Comes With Age

 

Since 1991, the percentage of born again adults who are 50 or older has risen from 31% to 41%. At the other end of the age continuum, it is now even harder to penetrate the ranks of those under 30. In 1991, 28% of adults ages 18 to 29 had adopted Jesus Christ as their savior. Today, just 26% of those in the 18 to 29 age segment are believers – a statistically insignificant change, but a trend at odds with the fact that people in other age brackets (those ages 30 to 49, ages 50 to 64, and ages 65 and older) are all more likely to accept Christ as their savior than was true in 1991. In fact, the share of the born again body represented by those in the 18 to 29 group has dropped from 20% in 1991 to just 14% today.

 

George Barna, who directed the study by the Barna Research Group, noted that “Baby Busters have proven to be the most gospel-resistant generation the Church has seen in many years. While more than one-third of Baby Boomers were likely to be born again by the time they reached their early adult years, only one-quarter of the Busters are following suit.”

 

Men Aren’t Changing

 

The past decade has seen a lot of religious activity among men across the nation, but there is little evidence of significant spiritual change among them. In 1991, 32% of men had accepted Christ as their savior. That figure has nudged up to 36% – a statistically insignificant change, and one which is equaled by the change among adult women. The male share of the born again body has remained fixed at 43%; women represent nearly six out of every ten believers.

 

Aggregate Growth

 

Barna indicated that although there was little change in adults’ likelihood of accepting Christ as their savior, the Nineties nevertheless brought about numerical growth for the body of Christ in America. “While people are only slightly more likely to believe in Christ today than they were a decade ago, the fact that the nation’s population has grown by ten percent resulted in about 10 million more adult believers than we had in 1991. Even though the rate of conversion has stayed roughly the same, the rate of population growth in the past decade generated a huge wave of new believers.”

 

Barna offered a related observation as to why the growth of the born again population is not more evident. “The largest share of the growth comes from among individuals making $60,000 a year or more. Many of those individuals are living ‘the good life’ and, upon analyzing the salvation proposal, determined that inviting Christ into their life is a smart choice. For many of these individuals, faith in Jesus is simply a good deal. They are not likely to view their faith decision as the catalyst of a lifestyle that demands sacrifice, selflessness and service. Faith in Christ represents an eternal insurance policy for them rather than a significant change of heart about the ultimate meaning of life, or how to honor Christ through their decisions, behavior and resources.”

 

Survey Methodology

 

The data described above are from telephone interviews with a nationwide random sample of 1002 adults conducted in February 2000 and interviews conducted in 1991 among 2055 adults. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level for the 2000 data, and ±2 points for the 1991 data.

 

Likelihood of Being a Born Again Christian

 

1991

2000

Born again Christians, among all adults

37%

41%

 

Likelihood of being born again:

 

Age group:

 

 

18-29

28%

26%

30-49

39

44

50-64

45

48

65 or older

42

50

 

Race/ethnicity:

 

 

White/caucasian

38%

43%

Black/African-American

50

54

Hispanic

25

23

Asian American

5

27

 

Household income:

 

 

Under $20,000

39%

43%

$20,000-$39,999

37

39

$40,000-$59,999

39

48

$60,000-$74,999

33

39

$75,000 or more

32

37

 

Gender:

 

 

Male

32%

36%

Female

42

46

 

Region of residence:

 

 

Northeast

28

29

South

46

56

Midwest

32

41

West

31

31

 

Market Share of Faith: Demographic Subgroups As A Percentage of the Adult Born Again Population

 

1991

2000

 

Age group:

 

 

18-29

20%

14%

30-49

48

45

50-64

20

25

65 or older

11

16

 

Race/ethnicity:

 

 

White/caucasian

76%

75%

Black/African-American

16

16

Hispanic

6

6

Asian-American

1

1

 

Household income:

 

 

Under $20,000

22%

15%

$20,000-$39,999

43

37

$40,000-$59,999

22

24

$60,000-$74,999

5

8

$75,000 or more

8

17

 

Region of residence:

 

 

Northeast

17%

15%

South

42

45

Midwest

21

23

West

20

17

 

==============================

 

Christians Embrace Technology (000612)

 

Throughout our nation’s history, various sects have demonstrated their distrust of technology. Groups such as the Amish Mennonites have traditionally eschewed new forms of technology for reasons based on their values and faith views. While most Americans are not willing to go to such lengths to distance themselves from the tools of modernity, many people of faith may ask themselves just what Jesus had in mind when He instructed His disciples to be in the world but not of the world. (John 17:11-18) Does that admonition include or exclude embracing the latest technology?

 

A new study released by the Barna Research Group, of Ventura, California, reveals that born again Christians have the same rate of adoption of modern technology as do adults who are not born again. In evaluating ownership of ten electronic and equipment items, there was not a statistically significant difference in ownership levels between the two groups in relation to any of those items.

 

Television is Universal

 

While nearly every household in the nation owns at least one working television set, the survey also found that more than nine out of ten homes (92%) now rely upon either cable or satellite programming delivery. Cable television is subscribed to by almost three-quarters of America’s households (73%). Satellite programming is delivered to another 19% of homes.

 

Since 1990, cable penetration has increased by 20%, rising from 61% in 1990 to its current level. Satellite penetration has tripled during that same decade, rising from 6% to one out of every five homes. These figures indicate that households relying upon either cable or satellite program delivery has grown from 67% in 1990 to 92% today - a 37% expansion of “wired” households.

 

The ubiquitous TV appendage, the VCR, can now be found in 93% of all homes. That represents a 35% 10-year growth rate, climbing from 69% in 1990. This helps to explain how revenue from video rentals now exceeds that of theater revenues for movie studios.

 

The challenger to the VCR is DVD - digital video disks. DVD has burst onto the scene in the last few years and has quickly captured 18% of the market. The survey data show that adults under 30 are the most receptive market for this new video technology.

 

Cellular Telephones Have Arrived

 

No technology has come on faster than cellular phones. Owned by only 7% of adults in 1990, and by just a sliver more in 1993 (10%), cell phones are now owned by almost six out of ten adults (58%). The advent of better service rates, more aggressive marketing, superior line quality and wider coverage, combined with the faster pace of society and the perceived need to “stay connected” at all times, has driven this rapid penetration.

 

While cell phones were initially a toy for the affluent, the demographics of ownership have flattened considerably in the last five years. However, cell phones remain a technology less likely to be found in the communications arsenal of middle-income and lower-income adults. The most noteworthy exception to this income barrier relates to parenting. Many parents who are not affluent have adopted cell phones, presumably for the security they provide.

 

Home Computers Are Commonplace

 

Two-thirds of all adults now own a personal computer. Fifty-five percent own a desktop computer for their home, 16% own a laptop or notebook computer, and 8% own a palmtop PC. Half of all adults - and more than four out of five home computer owners - also have access to the Internet at home. Home Internet access has grown like wildfire, jumping from just 9% household penetration in 1996 to 50% today.

 

While the gap is not as pronounced as it used to be, America still has a generational divide related to computer ownership and Internet access. Adults under 50 constitute 68% of the U.S. adult population but 79% of the adults who own computers. Computers and the Internet are also more common among individuals with a college education, above-average household income levels, married adults, adults with children under 18 in their home, and those who are Caucasian.

 

Commentary on Technology Ownership

 

According to George Barna, whose company has been tracking technology ownership for the past 10 years, we can expect to see faster growth in the next few years related to DVD units and small portable computers. “The 20% penetration level is often the threshold at which a technology gains momentum. Having just reached that level, we expect DVD and portable PCs, whether notebooks or palmtops, to double or triple in penetration within the next five years. We do not anticipate much growth in mature technologies, such as VCRs or cable TV.” The researcher also projected continued but slower growth for cellular phones and online services.

 

Barna encouraged caution in interpreting the penetration rates related to people’s faith commitment. “We need to study how those communications technologies are used before passing judgment on a group in response to ownership rates. Each of these technologies has the capacity to help and the capacity to harm. The question is who controls who: does the communications tool overwhelm and therefore control its owner, or does the owner dictate parameters within which the tool is used for a specified and monitored purpose?

 

“It is possible to argue persuasively that many Christians have been seduced by the power of the tools they have acquired. Born again adults spend an average of seven times more hours each week watching television than they do participating in spiritual pursuits such as Bible reading, prayer, and worship. They spend roughly twice as much money on entertainment as they donate to their church. And they spend more time surfing the Net than they do conversing with God in prayer. There’s nothing innately inappropriate about TV, cell phones, VCRs or computers. However, it’s easy to become paralyzed by the amount of information they produce, stressed out by the time demands they exert, burdened by the cost of these tools and morally compromised by some of the content conveyed through these instruments. Ultimately these are issues of control and quality of life. These tools can produce great benefits, but they also challenge us to use our personal resources wisely. We have to regularly ask who is in control, and what kind of life do they produce?”

 

Survey Methodology

 

The data described above are from telephone interviews with a nationwide random sample of 1002 adults conducted in February 2000. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

 

Household Technology Penetration, by Faith Commitment, 1995-2000 Source: Barna Research Group, Ltd., Ventura, CA.

 

 

2000

 

 

1995

 

 

 

All adults

Born again Christians

Not born again

All adults

Born again Christians

Not born again

VCR

93%

94%

93%

89%

90%

84%

Cable television

73

71

74

74

77

71

Satellite dish for TV

19

18

20

NA

NA

NA

DVD

18

17

19

NA

NA

NA

Cellular telephone

58

59

57

26

29

25

Desktop computer

55

56

55

33

31

34

Laptop/notebook PC

16

16

16

7

7

7

Palmtop computer

8

7

8

NA

NA

NA

CD-ROM for PC

54

51

55

13

12

13

Home Internet access

50

48

52

7

9

6

Sample size

1002

413

589

1007

385

622

 

==============================

 

Church Lay Leaders Are Different From Followers (000626)

 

Successful movements, causes and organizations make progress because their leaders are different from other people in noticeable and compelling ways. Such leaders typically internalize the distinctives of the cause they represent and become a living embodiment of the group’s ideals.

 

A new study released by the Barna Research Group, of Ventura, California, reveals that the lay leaders of Christian churches differ from the masses that attend such churches. The nationwide survey comparing lay leaders and those who are not church leaders identifies significant differences between these groups in terms of religious activity, religious beliefs, life goals and self-image.

 

Church Lay Leaders Are Involved

 

The survey evaluated leaders in relation to eight religious activities. On all eight activities, church leaders were significantly more likely to be involved. In most cases, the differences were substantial. For instance, in a typical week church leaders were more than twice as likely as other people to attend church services and to be mentored; more than four times as likely to volunteer their free time, to attend Sunday school and to attend a faith-related small group during the week. Leaders were also more likely than others to pray during the week and to have a personal devotional time during the week. Leaders also were substantially more likely than others to have shared their religious beliefs with other people for evangelistic purposes during the past year.

 

If it’s true that you can determine a person’s commitments by what they invest in, then church leaders are devoted to their church. Lay leaders (96%) were twice as likely as other adults (48%) to have donated any money to their church in the past year. The mean amount of money donated to churches by leaders was almost four times greater than the amount given by non-leaders who donated funds to a church ($2375 versus $604). The difference in the median sum of their church donations was even more lopsided: leaders gave a median cumulative gift of $1500 compared to $75 among non-leaders. (A median is an amount that lies in the middle on a continuum arranged from least to most - in this case, the median indicates that half as many people gave less and half as many people gave more than the median amount.)

 

Spiritual Beliefs Are Different

 

While one-quarter of the church leaders interviewed were not born again Christians, leaders were twice as likely as non-leaders to qualify as “born again” - meaning that they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ, have confessed their sins, have accepted Christ as their savior, and believe they will have eternal life solely because of what Jesus did for them through His death and resurrection. Overall, 75% of church leaders are born again compared to 37% of non-leaders.

 

The survey examined 17 religious beliefs of leaders and non-leaders. Leaders were statistically different from other adults in response to 16 of the 17 belief statements. Lay leaders were only half as likely as others to believe that a good person can earn their way into Heaven; that Jesus committed sins while He was on earth; that all faiths teach the same lessons; and that all people will experience the same outcome after death, regardless of their beliefs. Leaders were almost twice as likely to strongly affirm that the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches, and to accept a personal responsibility to share their beliefs about Jesus Christ and salvation with other people.

 

The survey data do underscore, however, a tremendous diversity of beliefs among church leaders - including some beliefs that are antithetical to biblical principles. Among the beliefs held by lay leaders that conflict with biblical teaching are the following:

 

*

 

a majority 58% said the Bible teaches that “God helps those who help themselves”

 

Nine out of every ten church leaders said that he/she was “absolutely committed” to the Christian faith. That is more than double the percentage that affirmed such a commitment among the non-leaders.

 

The survey also revealed that only half of all church leaders (53%) believe that there are moral truths that are absolute. While that is more than the one-third of non-leaders (36%) who hold such a belief, it is substantially less than might be expected among individuals who extol the Bible as the source of moral truth.

 

Leaders Have Different Goals in Life

 

The survey examined people’s goals for the future. In relation to the 21 possibilities tested, church leaders were statistically different on 14 of those outcomes. Not surprisingly, church leaders were clearly different in relation to all three faith-oriented goals. Those choices were “being deeply committed to the Christian faith” (93% of the leaders called this a “very desirable” condition, compared to 48% of other people); “being personally active in a church” (90% among leaders, 36% among others); and “having a close relationship with God” (97% and 67%, respectively).

 

The most noteworthy distinctions in the non-religious personal goals of church leaders included leaders being more desirous of making a difference in the world (69% vs. 44%, respectively); of having a clear purpose for living (92% vs. 72%); and being knowledgeable about current events (67% vs. 47%). Non-leaders were more likely than church leaders to prioritize having a comfortable lifestyle (64% vs. 40%, respectively).

 

One of the most important areas in life, though, relates to people’s spiritual goals. Church leaders were twice as likely as non-leaders to have set spiritual goals for themselves and were more likely to have a plan for meeting those goals. An analysis of the goals of each group also showed that the goals of church leaders were more specific and better defined than were those of individuals who are not church leaders. For instance, leaders were three times more likely than other people to describe goals pertaining to the quality of their relationship with God; three times more likely to specify ways in which they want God to transform their life; and twice as likely to describe ways of actively ministering to other people. On the other hand, non-leaders were five times more likely to be unable to describe the content of any of their spiritual goals.

 

Leaders Have a Different Self-Image

 

In some ways, church leaders view themselves differently than do other people. When asked whether or not each of 18 phrases accurately described them, church leaders were statistically different from other adults in relation to seven of those items. Specifically, leaders were more likely to describe themselves as “deeply spiritual” (94% vs. 55%) and an “evangelical Christian”(67% vs. 35%). They were less likely to say they were stressed out, dealing with an addiction, skeptical, often misunderstood by others, and enjoy making tough decisions.

 

However, the survey found that the self-image of church leaders is the same as that of other people in many ways. Similarities include being too busy, in debt, and self-sufficient; trying to find a few good friends; searching for purpose and meaning in life; putting their career first; enjoying deep discussions; preferring to keep things light; liking to be in control; enjoying new experiences; and avoiding conflict whenever possible.

 

Comments on Church Leaders

 

The research provides both the confirmation of expectations as well as some challenges, according to George Barna, the researcher who directed the study. “The individuals serving as lay leaders in Christian churches are, for the most part, a different breed. They demonstrate a deeper level of involvement and commitment to their church and to their faith, and they are clearly involved in seeking deeper spiritual maturity. Because so much of leadership is based on modeling what is important, these attributes are both positive and laudable.”

 

Barna applauded church leaders for their commitment to demonstrating a different response to cultural norms. “If the Christian Church is to provide people with an alternative to the ways of pop culture, its leaders must be the ones who show what that alternative looks like on a day to day basis. The divergent goals and time commitments of church leaders make such a lifestyle both practical and observable. History has shown quite convincingly that unless a group’s leaders model the desired behavior and beliefs, the masses do not change their way of life.

 

“Perhaps the greatest challenge confronting church leaders, though, is to achieve greater unity in terms of spiritual beliefs. When only half of the leaders believe that moral truth is absolute, then that creates challenges within the body of believers. When three-quarters affirm the truth of the Bible but then almost half of all leaders deny the reality of the Holy Spirit, there are going to be problems. When leaders are indistinguishable from others in their beliefs about the resurrection, with one-third of the leaders denying Jesus’ physical resurrection, confusion and doubt will prevail. When a majority of church leaders argue that the Bible teaches self-sufficiency, the Bible’s teachings about human insufficiency and of our need to rely upon God are undermined.

 

“Jesus’ life on earth was devoted to teaching people practical truth principles. His teaching was powerful because it was true, clear, and consistent and because He embodied those principles in how He lived. Like every leader, Jesus motivated people by backing up His stirring words with a practical behavioral demonstration. America’s church leaders have a tremendous opportunity to offer an alternative way of life to a population that is searching for ways to make life meaningful and worthwhile. But to present a compelling alternative, the words, actions and beliefs of church leaders must be synchronized. Good intentions are necessary but insufficient to cause change. Devoting time and energy to the cause is required but is not enough. Leaders must reflect purity and consistency in their beliefs and actions in order to influence other people.”

 

Survey Methodology

 

The data described above are from telephone interviews with a nationwide random sample of 1002 adults conducted in February 2000. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

 

==============================

 

Americans’ Bible Knowledge Is In the Ballpark, But Often Off Base (000712)

 

Americans are very opinionated on matters of faith. For the most part, their opinions coincide with those of the Bible - although a minority of adults strongly holds opinions that coincide with biblical teachings on many central theological positions. According to a new nationwide survey of religious beliefs released by the Barna Research Group of Ventura, California, most Americans (85%) consider their religious faith very important to their life, and generally feel strongly about their religious beliefs.

 

The survey posed 14 theological perspectives to a nationwide random sample of 1002 adults, asking people to agree or disagree with each statement, and to indicate if they were strongly or moderately attached to that position. Overall, a majority of adults sided with the Bible’s position on 11 of the 14 items tested. However, when only biblically-consistent and firmly-held (i.e. strongly agreeing or disagreeing) positions are counted, a majority of adults firmly held the same position as the Bible in relation to only 2 of the 14 statements examined.

 

Americans have been called the most religious population on earth and the intensity of people’s opinions related to their religious beliefs supports that contention. For each of the 14 statements evaluated, few people said that they were not sure how they felt about the statement. None of the 14 belief statements registered even one out of ten adults who had no opinion on the statement. In fact, while survey respondents often gravitate toward the mid-points of scales in response to such queries, just the opposite was true in regard to the belief statements evaluated. On all 14 statements tested, a majority of respondents chose one of the extreme points on the four-point-scale - that is, “agree strongly” or “disagree strongly” - rather than one of the more moderate points on the scale (“agree somewhat” or “disagree somewhat”).

 

One of the most startling findings was that only 3 of the 1002 adults interviewed - less than three-tenths of one percent - had both a firm and biblically-consistent opinion for all 14 of the items.

 

Some Groups Outshine Others

 

Upon examining different subgroups interviewed, the survey shows that born again Christians (see Methodology for definition) were the segment most likely to hold firm views that were consistent with Scripture. A majority of the born again adults held such positions in relation to 11 of the 14 positions tested. In comparison, among the non-born again adults a majority had firmly held opinions that were consistent with the Bible for only 2 of the 14 statements tested. It is interesting to note, however, that among the born again group a two-thirds majority had firmly held opinions that were biblically-consistent for just 4 of the 14 statements.

 

Compared to Catholics, a majority of Protestant adults had firmly-held and biblically-consistent views for twice as many of the statements evaluated. However, it was a minority of adults from both groups who were generally in synch with the Bible. Among Protestants, a majority had strong opinions that were consistent with the Bible’s position on 6 of the 14 statements, while Catholics followed suit on just 3 of the 14 statements posed to respondents.

 

In general, demographics did not make much of a difference related to people’s “theological correctness.” Women were slightly more likely than were men to hold firm positions that corresponded to Bible stands; Baby Busters (ages 18 to 34) were the least likely of the four adult generations to possess firmly-held, biblically-consistent views; and people who attended the smallest and the largest churches (i.e. under 100 adults or over 1000 adults attending services on a typical weekend) were less likely to exhibit firmly-held, biblically-consistent positions than were people in mid-sized churches. However, in each of these cases, the differences were minimal. Household income levels and ethnicity showed no relationship to “theological correctness.”

 

What Americans Believe

 

Overall, 60% of all adults agree that “the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches.” Yet, people’s knowledge of the content actually taught in the Bible leaves much to be desired. (See the data table at the end of this report for a listing of people’s views on each of the 14 statements in question.)

 

The statements that generated the greatest numbers of people who held positions consistent with the Bible were believing that the universe was created by God (74% agreed strongly, 13% agreed somewhat); rejecting the idea that sin is an outdated concept (68% strongly disagreed, 15% disagreed somewhat); and believing that angels exist and influence people’s lives (49% strongly agreed, 32% agreed somewhat).

 

The statements for which there were the greatest percentages of people who held positions conflicting with the Bible were claiming that the Bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves (53% strongly agreed, 22% agreed somewhat); that the Holy Spirit is not a real entity but is just a symbol of God’s presence or power (41% agreed strongly, and 20% agreed somewhat); and that Satan is not a real being but is just a symbol of evil (40% agreed strongly and 18% agreed somewhat).

 

While born again adults were somewhat more likely to adopt biblical views than were non-born again adults, the numbers of born again adults who held views contrary to Bible teaching was astonishing. Among the most surprising outcomes were the proportions of born again adults who agreed that the Bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves (68%); that the Holy Spirit does not exist (53%); that Satan does not exist (47%); that a good person can earn his/her way into heaven (31%); that Jesus Christ died but never had a physical resurrection (30%); and that Jesus Christ committed sins (24%).

 

Reactions to the Findings

 

According to George Barna, whose firm conducted the research, the results underscore the magnitude of the challenge facing churches today. “In one recent survey we found that almost nine out of ten adults believe they know all of the basic teachings of Christianity very well. But when you explore what they think the Bible actually teaches, as we did in this study, many theological inconsistencies and inaccuracies emerge. Unfortunately, correcting people’s mistaken assumptions about Bible content is made nearly impossible by their self-assurance about their beliefs. Even if they are exposed to good Bible teaching they typically fail to absorb that input because they think they already know it all. Changing the errant theological positions of millions of Americans is a very tough assignment.”

 

Barna also emphasized the significance of certain beliefs that are widespread. “The fact that most adults, born again or not, believe the Bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves shows how post-modern thinking is gaining ground, even in churches. That belief exposes our theological cornerstone - that we are the center of all things, that it is up to us to determine our destiny, and that God is merely our assistant, not our foundation. That fits well with the idea that good people can earn their salvation or that everyone experiences the same outcome after death regardless of their beliefs - positions that define a majority of born again Christians. Throw in the widespread rejection of supernatural forces - such as Satan and the Holy Spirit - and you have the makings of theological ignorance and spiritual chaos in which believers are distracted from the reality of the spiritual battle taking place and separated from the spiritual power that is available to them.”

 

Barna noted that there has been relatively slow change in people’s beliefs over the last 15 years, and that teenagers hold surprisingly similar views to those of adults.

 

Survey Methodology

 

The data described above are from telephone interviews with a nationwide random sample of 1002 adults conducted in February 2000. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

 

People’s Beliefs: Agreement/Disagreement with 14 Statements

(N=1002)

 

 

AST

ASW

DSW

DST

DK

the Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings

43%

17%

18%

15%

6%

you, personally, have a responsibility to tell other people your religious beliefs

31

17

22

28

3

the devil, or Satan, is not a living being but is a symbol of evil

40

18

9

27

7

if a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in Heaven

31

20

11

31

7

when He lived on earth, Jesus Christ was human and committed sins, like other people

20

19

9

43

9

it doesn’t matter what religious faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons

22

22

18

35

3

the Holy Spirit is a symbol of God’s presence or power but is not a living entity

41

20

8

25

7

after He was crucified and died, Jesus Christ did not return to life physically

29

11

11

41

8

the Bible teaches that God helps those who help themselves

53

22

7

14

5

all people will experience the same outcome after death, regardless of their religious beliefs

28

13

16

36

7

there are some crimes, sins or other things which people might do which cannot be forgiven by God

20

10

15

50

5

angels exist and influence people’s lives

49

32

8

7

5

the universe was originally created by God

74

13

4

5

4

the whole idea of sin is outdated

7

6

15

68

5

 

KEY: AST=agree strongly; ASW=agree somewhat; DSW=disagree somewhat; DST=disagree strongly; DK=don’t know.

 

==============================

 

Born Again Christians Backing Bush (000911)

 

If George W. Bush were to have a fantasy, it should be that only born again Christians be allowed to vote in November. In a recent survey conducted among likely voters just prior to Labor Day, Bush held a significant lead over Al Gore, 42% to 33%. However, among likely voters who are born again Christians, Bush led Gore by better than a 2:1 margin - 54% to 23% - with 3% preferring alternative candidates and 20% undecided. In comparison, among likely voters who are not born again Christians, Gore held a 40% to 32% advantage.

 

Among those who are likely to vote and are certain whom they will vote for, the margin of Bush’s lead was even greater. Bush held a 56% to 42% lead over Gore, with just 2% sure to vote for alternative candidates. The influence of faith was especially evident among voters whose minds are made up and will cast a ballot. Among born again voters who are likely to vote and who are certain whom they will vote for in November, Bush leads Gore 71% to 28%, a 5-to-2 margin. Among the non-born again voters who are likely to vote and are certain about whom they will support, Gore led Bush 53% vs. 45%.

 

The Most Avid Supporters

 

Evangelicals are the most intensely supportive voting block behind Bush. Among the evangelicals who are likely to vote and are certain whom they will vote for, Bush led Gore 85% to 13%. Evangelicals represent the only subgroup of voters among whom at least three-quarters are siding with the Texas Governor. The only group from which at least three-quarters are backing the Vice President is blacks (88%). Both of these groups are small in absolute numbers, however. Evangelicals, who represent a little less than 8% of the population, are likely to constitute 10% of the voters in November. Blacks, who are just less than 13% of the nation’s population, are likely to represent a bit less than 11% of the voting public.

 

Denominational Preferences

 

Among Catholics, the race is a toss-up. Half of the Catholics who are likely to vote and are certain of whom they will vote for in November are supporting Gore, and half are supporting Bush.

 

Protestants are less divided. Bush leads Gore by almost a 2-to-1 margin among those likely to vote and who know whom they will support (64% vs. 35%).

 

Changes Since February

 

In February, Bush led Gore 42% to 38%. Bush has slightly improved his position among born again voters compared to the relative standing of the candidates in February of this year. At that time, Bush led Gore by a 56% to 30% margin, indicating that his margin among the born again group has grown from 26 points to 31 points.

 

Among the non-born again likely voters in February, Gore held a 44% vs. 36% lead. His eight point lead among non-born again adults who are likely to vote in November has remained stable. In other words, the relative gains made by the Republican candidate since February have been primarily among born again Christians.

 

Since the first part of the year there has also been a seven-point swing in people’s claimed party affiliation. While born again voters were equally likely to claim being Democratic and Republican in February, currently born again Christians were somewhat more likely to say they are Democrat (43%) than Republican (36%).

 

The Race Is Not Over

 

George Barna, president of the research company that conducted the surveys, noted that the race is far from over. “National surveys conducted since Labor Day indicate that Vice President Gore has closed the gap. The two ways that Governor Bush could lose the race would be by losing the undecided vote, which remains substantial, or by alienating born again voters such that they support another candidate. While Mr. Bush is not likely to lose the evangelical contingent, his grip on the non-evangelical, born again segment, which represents a full one-third of the turnout in November, is more tenuous. His ability to stay focused on issues that move the born again vote, and to remain a candidate whose character appeals to the Christian constituency, will be a key in determining his ability to win in November.”

 

Survey Methodology

 

The data described above are from telephone interviews with a nationwide random sample of 1012 adults, among whom 797 were registered to vote. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level, and ±4 points for the subgroup of registered voters.

 

Candidate Preferences Among Likely Voters Who Are Certain For Whom They Will Vote

(N: 1012 adults; 796 registered voters; 632 likely voters)

 

 

Percentage of Likely Voters

Preferred Bush

Preferred Gore

Preferred Other

(undecided)

All adults

100%

42%

33%

4%

22%

Born again Christians

43

71

28

1

N/A

Evangelical Christians

10

85

13

2

N/A

Non-born again Christians

57

45

53

2

N/A

Protestant

57

64

35

1

N/A

Catholic

23

49

49

1

N/A

 

==============================

 

Barna Addresses Four Top Ministry Issues of Church Leaders (000925)

 

America’s leading researcher of religious trends and church activity begins a new seminar tour tomorrow to address four of the top-rated ministry challenges identified in a survey of more than 6000 church leaders. The major challenges, according to church leaders, are reaching the unchurched; establishing an effective discipleship ministry; building viable lay leadership teams; and implementing significant ministry evaluation. George Barna, president of the Barna Research Group and author of 29 books regarding cultural trends, religious activity and church-based ministry, will visit 52 markets across the country to present a full-day seminar during which he will describe the results of the two years of research he has conducted in these four areas of interest.

 

Reaching the Unchurched

 

The United States has so many unchurched people that the nation has become one of the primary missions targets of Christians who live in other countries around the world. Many unchurched adults were former church-goers who dropped out because they did not feel that they were receiving adequate value. After interviewing several thousand unchurched adults and teenagers, Barna concluded that the same strategies that succeeded in attracting today’s churched population may not work among the unchurched. “We found that they are less relational than churched people,” explained the researcher, “and they are looking for different benefits and outcomes than we often assume they desire. We found that seeker services are not necessary if other significant needs are met while they are on a church campus.”

 

The research presented in the seminar also describes what the unchurched want from a church, what it will take to get them there, and what is likely to keep them from attending. Barna and his firm studied several dozen churches that are unusually effective at attracting and retaining unchurched people and identified a dozen unique traits of such churches that enable them to impact those who have abandoned the church.

 

Creating True Disciples

 

For years, Barna’s research has underscored the lack of biblical literacy within the Church. His new research, however, goes far beyond a study of the beliefs of born again Christians. “True discipleship is about a lifestyle, not simply about stored up Bible knowledge,” Barna noted. “Often, churches assume that if people are reading the Bible and attending a small group, then real discipleship is happening. Unfortunately, we found that’s often not the case. Discipleship is about being and reproducing zealots for Christ. Discipleship, in other words, is about passionately pursuing the lifestyle and mission of Jesus Christ. Our studies revealed that a surprisingly small proportion of born again Christians claim that they are aggressively seeking to be true followers of the Lord.”

 

Among the obstacles to effective discipleship identified by Barna are starting the process too late in people’s lives and the absence of a worldview that facilitates genuine discipleship. “Christianity would be incredibly influential in our culture if Christians consistently lived their faith,” the seminar leader stated. “Most non-Christians don’t read the Bible, so they judge Christianity by the lives of the Christians they see. The problem is that millions of Christians don’t live like Christians - and that’s partially because they don’t know what they believe and therefore cannot apply appropriate scriptural values in their life.” In the seminar, Barna not only outlines steps toward alleviating such problems, but also identified five models of discipleship currently used by churches to generate significant results.

 

Lay Leadership Teams

 

In the early stages of his two years of research on how churches use lay leadership teams to get ministry done, Barna confesses he became confused. “What I didn’t understand at first was that even though most churches claim they use leadership teams, they are actually using work groups. There’s a huge difference. Work groups focus on assigned tasks; teams pursue vision. Work groups are self-contained production units working within prescribed parameters. Leadership teams are small units of individuals with complementary leadership aptitudes who motivate others to get involved, mobilize their efforts around a compelling vision, and direct the flow of effort and resources to accomplish a series of tasks within a larger framework of ministry output. Churches that rely on work groups survive. Churches that rely on lay leadership teams explode with growth and community impact.”

 

The research also showed that churches that use teams have less conflict, fewer full-time staff, and more extensive ministries than churches that rely on staff and work groups. During the seminar, Barna discusses how churches who are effectively utilizing lay leadership teams identify appropriate team partners, develop their leadership and teamwork skills, and provide an environment that allows for impact.

 

Ministry Evaluation

 

The typical church evaluates how it’s doing in ministry, but uses relatively meaningless criteria in the process. Barna’s study found that the most common evaluation criteria are attendance, membership, revenue, ratio of pastoral staff to congregants, and square footage. “Those measures are interesting but ultimately insignificant. The church exists to bring about life transformation. Measures such as attendance and staff ratios have little direct relationship to the spiritual condition and growth of the people. If a church wants to determine its’ spiritual health, it must measure indicators of true health. Filling seats and hiring staff are not significantly correlated to congregation vitality. A variety of other measures can be employed to gage spiritual well-being and growth.”

 

Again, Barna’s efforts produced practical helps for churches that want to know where they stand and how to move forward. Among the outcomes of the research are three measurement tools that churches are using to evaluate the health of their ministry. During the seminar session, Barna not only describes his research regarding the measures that work, but also outlines the three evaluation approaches facilitated by those measurement tools.

 

Research Conducted for the Seminar

 

Barna noted that his company conducted more than $250,000 worth of research in preparation for the seminar, studying the four topics for more than two years. The research included nationwide surveys of unchurched adults, born again Christians, teenagers, and Protestant senior pastors. The company also used depth interviews among pastors, unchurched adults and born again adults; and site visits to churches doing highly effective ministry in the ministry dimensions of interest. “To my knowledge, no seminar for pastors and church leaders has ever been based on such extensive research on these topics. It’s wonderful to be able to share a broad spectrum of perspectives with church leaders, from describing the problems to describing how churches have overcome those problems through innovative, strategic and proven ministry efforts.”

 

During the seminar, Barna also shows videotaped case studies of churches that are doing effective work in the areas under discussion.

 

==============================

 

New Book by Barna Reveals Insights on Reaching the Unchurched (001009)

 

If you plan to minister to the unchurched population of the nation, you may be seeking to minister to people who are different than you imagine. That caution comes from researcher and author George Barna in his latest book, Grow Your Church From the Outside In. The book, scheduled to release on Friday, October 13, provides an in-depth examination of people who avoid Christian churches, exploring their lifestyles, demographics, values, past and present religious experiences, their likelihood of returning to a church, and what it would take to get them to return and stay committed to a Christian congregation. The book is the result of two years of primary research conducted by Barna and coincides with the launching of his new seminar for church leaders that addresses the unchurched, discipleship, team leadership and ministry evaluation.

 

Know What’s Important

 

In the book, Barna describes the demographic profile of unchurched adults. Noting that the proportion of adults who avoid churches has risen in the past few years, he points out “if the unchurched were a nation unto themselves, they would be the eleventh most populated country on earth today.” However, once you get beyond the sheer numbers of unchurched, you discover that their background characteristics are virtually identical to those of the churched population.

 

Barna’s studies identified significant psychographic differences, though. When he explored their life goals, felt needs, perceived personal deficiencies, core values and behavioral profile, some keen insights emerged. One of the most important was that the unchurched are less relationally inclined than are churched people. “The central strategy promoted by churches toward attracting unchurched people is to build relationships with them. The assumption is that the strength of those relationships will attract and retain the unchurched. However, our data show unchurched adults are not as relational as are churched adults and therefore are less compelled to join a faith group because of friendships. It seems that, in some ways, churches have already attracted the people who are driven by emotional and relational needs. Those who are less interactive interpret the relational bent of churches to be their primary thrust and thus conclude that churches have little value. Given their personality traits and attitudinal leanings, to attract the unchurched a church must intentionally and aggressively promote and provide options that meet non-relational needs.”

 

The book also captures an understanding of the religious background and involvement of unchurched adults. The survey data point out that although these people ignore churches, they do not ignore faith matters. “We found that large numbers of them regularly participate in faith activities, ranging from prayer and Bible reading to use of the religious media,” the author explained. “The difference is that those activities are not foundational for them. They are interested in religious faith, but are not devoted to integrating faith into their life. They dabble in spirituality and, if something clicks, they pursue it a bit farther.”

 

Unchurched adults possess some firm convictions about God, the Bible, eternity, spiritual power, and moral truth. “Relatively few unchurched people are atheists,” according to Barna. “Most of them call themselves Christian and have had a serious dose of church life in their past. In fact, they have regular exposure to religious information and frequent engagement in various religious practices. They simply do not trust God and faith is not a defining or driving force in their life. Few of the unchurched, however, are adamantly opposed to faith and spirituality. More accurately, we would say that they are generally indifferent toward faith, with occasional surges of interest.”

 

One section of Grow Your Church From the Outside In underscores the contradictory nature of the beliefs and behavior of the unchurched. This inconsistency is partially attributed to the relative unimportance attached to religious considerations. “These people are not dumb,” explained Barna, “ but they don’t put much time or thought into developing an internally consistent religious belief system. The result is that a lot of what they say they believe doesn’t fit together very well.”

 

In addition, the research identified a series of misconceptions about ministry to unchurched people. Addressing one such myth, Barna reiterated the widely held assumption that the unchurched won’t return to a church if it only offers typical worship services. “Many churches offer seeker services, expecting those events to make the church more palatable to visitors. However, we found that other things are more important to outsiders than whether or not the service has been designed to minimize traditional religious trappings and approaches. Many of the churches we studied who are successful at bringing unchurched people into the fold have done little, if anything, to alter the style of services they offer. They have realized that other elements make a bigger difference than the style of music, the nature of the sermon or whether or not an offering is taken.”

 

Back to Church

 

Unless things change significantly, Barna estimates that fewer than one out of every five unchurched adults is likely to return to a church in the near future. But he is quick to point out that a larger number of people would return under the right combination of conditions.

 

What types of services would they like to return to? “In general, they want a place that is caring, casual, contemporary, creative, child-friendly, control-granting and contextualized. Frankly, they want many of the same things that churched people want. They are simply less forgiving in terms of the level of excellence with which these elements are provided. The people, the process and the product matter to them. If the church does not meet their standards, they’ll simply look elsewhere to have their needs met.”

 

Developing the Book

 

Re-Churching the Unchurched is the first of a series of four books Barna wrote this summer. Three of those books, including the volume on the unchurched, were developed to coincide with the nationwide seminar tour that Barna begins this month and that will continue through November of next year. In the seminar, Barna describes new research related to four topics of concern to church leaders: ministry to the unchurched, effective discipleship, building teams among lay leaders, and evaluating the success of a church’s ministry. In subsequent weeks, two additional books by Barna, also related to the seminar, will be released.

 

The current book is based on research among unchurched adults and teenagers. The research was based on several national surveys of those groups, plus a series of in-depth interviews related to the religious experiences and expectations of unchurched people. Barna’s company also studied the ministry philosophy and practices of churches that are successfully reaching the unchurched, to ascertain the strategies and models that seem to be most effective at getting unchurched people to commit to involvement in a church.

 

==============================

 

Teenagers’ Beliefs Moving Farther From Biblical Perspectives (001023)

 

America’s teenagers are quite involved with religious faith. Based on a new nationwide survey of teens, however, the question is: what religious faith have they really embraced? The survey shows that while most teens consider themselves to be Christian and attend a Christian church at least occasionally, many of their beliefs are not consistent with biblical teaching.

 

Most Claim to be Christian

 

In total, 86% of teenagers claim that they are Christian. That is a slight improvement from a year ago, and roughly equal to the level measured two years ago. Among those who say they are Christian, however, their commitment to the Christian faith is limited. Only one-third describe themselves as “absolutely committed” to Christianity, half say they are “moderately committed” and the remaining one-fifth are less committed.

 

Barna Research has traditionally categorized people as “born again Christian” according to their answers to two questions regarding their beliefs. (See the Research Methodology section for the question descriptions.) Using those two questions as the indicator, the survey characterized one-third of all teenagers (34%) as born again - the same level measured over the past several years. That is slightly lower than the current national level among adults (41%).

 

The most common church affiliations of teenagers were with the Catholic church (22%), Baptist churches (16%), and mainline Protestant churches (19%). Only 4% said they usually attend a church that is part of a charismatic or Pentecostal denomination.

 

Good Feelings about Faith

 

Most teenagers have positive impressions of Christianity, faith and local churches. Eight out of ten say that their faith has helped them to achieve a greater sense of peace in life. Eight out of ten also stated that the Christian churches in their community add real value to the life of their community. And eight out of ten also claimed that religious faith is very important in their life these days.

 

While teens possess positive feelings about churches and the Christian faith, they are less sanguine about Christian adults. One-third noted that they feel “most adult Christians are hypocrites.” The older the teenager was, the more likely he/she was to adopt this view. Teens living in the West were more likely than teens living elsewhere to hold this view, as were those who said they are “mostly liberal” on political and social issues.

 

Distorted Beliefs

 

The Bible remains a respected text among most young adults. Three out of five teens said they believe the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches. Protestant teens were twice as likely as Catholic teens to strongly affirm the accuracy of the Bible. Similarly, born again teens were twice as likely as non-born again teens to strongly agree that the Bible is totally accurate in its teachings.

 

When asked about specific religious beliefs, though, many teenagers embraced views that are inconsistent with the Bible. For instance, two-thirds stated that Satan is not a living being but merely a symbol of evil. Six out of ten argued that a good person can earn eternal salvation through good deeds. A majority (53%) said that Jesus committed sins while He was on earth. The view that Jesus committed sins was endorsed by four out of ten born again teens (40%) and half of all teenagers (52%) who attend a Protestant church.

 

Straying from Adult Beliefs

 

The profile of teen beliefs that emerged from the survey suggests that the historical parallel between the religious beliefs of adults and teenagers is dissipating. Teens acknowledge a debt to their parents for their religious views: 82% said that their parents have been good role models of how to be a person of strong and meaningful faith. However, since most adults possess numerous theological perspectives that stray from Scripture, such modeling may threaten rather than enhance the purity of young peoples’ Christian experience.

 

In fact, the survey found that in comparison to adults, teens are now more likely to deny the existence of Satan, more likely to perceive eternal salvation to be a consequence of personal goodness, and more likely to contend that Jesus Christ was a sinner.

 

Potential Impact of the News

 

The results of the survey pointed to major challenges facing the Church, according to George Barna, the researcher whose firm conducted the survey. “Two out of three teenagers said they are ‘very familiar with all the major principles and teachings of the Christian faith.’ In addition, three-fourths of all teens said their religious beliefs are not likely to change in the future. The bottom line is that today’s teens think they have learned and absorbed whatever the Christian faith has to offer and are therefore not questioning their spiritual beliefs, and are not open to being challenged in their views. Among teenagers, what we see is what we will continue to get from them - well-intentioned but misinformed faith perspectives that lead to bad choices and spiritual confusion. As the future leaders of the Christian church, we must be concerned about the substance of the faith that will be communicated and practiced in the long-term.”

 

The author of 30 books on Christian faith and cultural changes, Barna also pointed out that the dominant influences on the spiritual views of young people - parents, friends, music and pop entertainment - are largely responsible for the errant theological views of teens and cannot be counted on to restore biblical clarity. “The unintentional yet constant reinforcement of their inappropriate beliefs by the people and institutions they trust is making the job tougher and tougher for the Church. If biblical truth is going to prevail in American society, it will require a strategic, long-term, coordinated effort to convey God’s truth in ways that shake young people from their theological complacency and arrogance. Churches and individual believers cannot continue to minister in the same ways they have been doing for the past decade. Families must become more diligent and reliable in the religious training they provide to their children. The depth of the problem is beyond what churches, by themselves, can address. To overcome the spiritual distortions so common in our society requires a more comprehensive and long-term solution.”

 

The researcher went on to challenge Christian parents to examine their own theological perspectives and those of their children as the front line of defense against biblical misunderstanding and misrepresentation.

 

Research Methodology

 

The findings described above are based upon 605 telephone interviews conducted during September and October, 2000 among teenagers, ages 13 through 18, living within the 48 continental states. Each teenager was randomly selected from the national population of teens. The estimated sampling error for the survey is +5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

 

One category of teenagers discussed is “born again Christians.” Survey respondents were classified as “born again” if they said they had made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life and if they believed that after they die they will go to Heaven solely because they have confessed their sins and have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. They are not asked to describe themselves as born again and that designation is not dependent upon church attendance, denominational affiliation, or any other indicator of religious involvement.

 

A Comparison of Adult and Teen Beliefs

(base: self defined Christians)

 

 

Adults

 

Teenagers

 

 

Agree

Disagree

Agree

Disagree

The Bible is totally accurate in all of its teachings

60%

33%

62%

35%

The devil, or Satan, is not a living being but is a symbol of evil

58

36

65

32

If a person is generally good, or does enough good things for others during their life, they will earn a place in Heaven

51

42

61

38

When Jesus Christ lived on earth He committed sins, like other people

39

52

53

42

 

==============================

 

Bush Decisively Won Born Again Vote, But Gore Gained Most of the Born Again Voters Who Decided Late (001113)

 

Texas Governor George W. Bush won the born again Christian vote nationwide by a comfortable 57% to 42% margin. The born again vote was one of the most supportive constituencies drawn to the Republican candidate in last week’s election. However, an analysis of the born again vote by the Barna Research Group shows that Vice President Al Gore had growing momentum among the born again segment, winning more than 80% of the born again votes that were decided between Labor Day and Election Day.

 

Barna Research data, based on nationwide surveys conducted throughout the campaign, including interviews conducted both the week before and the week after the election, showed that 59% of born again adults voted, compared to a 46% turnout among adults who are not born again. Despite the higher turnout figures among born agains, there were more non-born again voters who cast a ballot (just over 55 million) than there were born again adults who voted (slightly less than 50 million), because the born again constituency is a minority of the adult population. (There were several million people who voted but did not register a preference for any of the presidential candidates.)

 

Based on those turnout and candidate preference figures, Barna Research estimates that Governor Bush defeated Vice President Gore by roughly 7.1 million votes among the born again voters. The Democratic candidate made up that difference - plus a couple hundred thousand more votes - among the voters who are not born again.

 

Born Again Voters Active

 

The higher turnout level among the born again population was the tangible result of the greater interest the group had in the November election. Four out of every five born again adults were registered to vote, compared to just two out of three among the non-born again segment.

 

Born again voters were also somewhat more likely to say that they followed the election closely this year. Nearly half (47%) claimed to have done so, which was slightly more than the two out of five non-born again registered voters (40%) who made the same claim.

 

The importance of casting a ballot was more likely to have been impressed upon those in the born again group. More than nine out of ten (92%) said that it was “very important” to vote in this year’s election, surpassing the eight out of ten (83%) who held the same view among the non-born again niche.

 

Bush Seen as the Morality Candidate

 

When voters were asked why they chose one candidate or the other, the dominant reasons behind Bush’s support were his character, his political philosophy, and his position on abortion. Character was clearly the most compelling factor: it was listed as a major motivation for choosing the Texan by twice as many supporters as chose any other reason. The positions on issues that attracted the greatest number of born again voters to Bush were those related to abortion and taxes.

 

Born again support for Al Gore was based largely upon his being a Democrat, his character, his position on Social Security, and his experience in the White House. Unlike the profile of Bush’s support, Gore had no single reference point that emerged as the dominant point of appeal.

 

A direct comparison of the most compelling reasons for selecting their candidate showed that Bush was four times more likely than was Gore to be identified as a man of good character by the respective candidate’s supporters. Compared to Gore, Bush was four times as likely to be identified by his supporters as a man of strong faith, and seven times more likely to be cited for his position on abortion. Gore supporters, on the other hand, were ten times more likely than were Bush voters to single out their man’s stand on Social Security; five times more likely to list his probability of helping the poor; six times more likely to note that he is a good family man; and three times more likely to describe him as intelligent, knowledgeable or well-informed.

 

When voters were questioned directly about the appeal of either candidate related to specific issues or perspectives, born again voters firmly considered Mr. Bush to be the best candidate for providing moral leadership, restoring educational quality in the schools, and using the military most appropriately. Bush was deemed superior to Gore in providing moral leadership by a 19-point margin (51% to 32%); as the champion of better education by a 15-point margin (48% to 33%); and as the candidate more likely to use the military appropriately by a 24-point advantage (54% to 30%). Bush held smaller margins of preference among the born again constituency on issues such as managing the economy (48% to 37%) and helping families (46% to 39%).

 

Among born again voters, Mr. Gore was deemed the candidate most likely to help the poor (46% to 36%).

 

Surprises and Significant Results in the Faith-Related Vote

 

Among the surprises in the votes cast by born again Christians were the following:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upon comparing the presidential elections of 1996 and 2000, the Barna Research data show that Bush fared much better among the born again group than did 1996 Republican candidate Senator Robert Dole. Four years ago, Dole won the born again vote by a slim six-point margin (49% to 43%) - less than half the lift that Bush received this time around.

 

The Bush differential is particularly surprising given that a significantly larger share of born again voters aligned with the Democratic Party this year than was the case four years ago. During the Clinton-Dole contest, 41% of the born again voters described themselves as Republican, 34% Democrat and 14% Independent. In the just-ended election, 41% said they were Democrats, 39% Republicans, and 16% Independents. There was clearly a move toward the Democratic Party among born again voters during the last six months of this election, according to Barna surveys - much of it attributable to ethnic voters.

 

The Barna data also indicated that born again Christians have become a shade less conservative during the past four years. In 1996, 46% of the born again voters said they were mostly conservative on political issues while just 8% described themselves as mostly liberal. This year just 39% said they were mostly conservative while the liberal count rose slightly, to 10%.

Reaction to the Results

 

In this historic election, researcher George Barna pointed out that the faith-related vote was a significant factor in the election. “Clearly, Mr. Bush would have been trounced if he had not gained the favor of born again Christians. Similarly, the substantial support that Mr. Gore received from black churches made an impact on his showing. No matter how you look at these results, though, it becomes obvious that Christians are a significant voice in the voting process, but they are certainly not a unified, monolithic voting block as is sometimes assumed. The fact that there are perhaps a dozen or so other voting blocks that were more solidly behind Mr. Bush than were born again Christians underscores the diversity within the Christian body. It also indicates that perhaps people’s faith commitment is not as defining a force in their decision-making as other personal attributes and considerations.”

 

Barna also noted the importance of personal character in people’s choice of candidate. “Regardless of whom people voted for, the substantial attention devoted to each candidate’s moral character, and the large number of people who identified moral leadership as a key issue, suggests that millions of Americans are tired of the post-modern, relativistic culture America has embraced. On both sides of the political fence, more people were driven to one candidate or the other on this basis of his character, values and moral stands than by his rhetoric on key economic and global issues. The nation’s political leaders, regardless of party of ideology, should take note of the public’s growing desire for moral, as well as political leadership during these next four years.”

 

Survey Methodology

 

The data described above are drawn from three nationwide telephone surveys among random samples of eligible voters. The 1996 data regarding the Clinton-Dole election is based upon 1007 adults, of whom 683 were registered and voted. The August-September, 2000 survey was conducted among a nationwide random sample of 1012 adults, among whom 797 were registered to vote. The data regarding the current election were from a national random sample survey of 1017 adults, conducted in November, which included 747 registered voters. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the subgroup of registered voters ±4 points at the 95% confidence level.

 

==============================

 

Discipleship Insights Revealed in New Book by George Barna (001128)

 

Most Christians and Christian churches are familiar with Jesus’ parting exhortation to makes disciples of the world. However, according to a new book by researcher George Barna, entitled Growing True Disciples, the Christian Church in America is comprised of “many converts, but shockingly few disciples.” This conclusion is based upon two years of research Barna conducted regarding the current state of discipleship, and how churches might enhance the effectiveness of their discipleship ministries. Barna also found, however, that there are churches doing effective discipleship, and the book contains a description of five different discipleship models currently used by such leading churches across the nation.

 

The State of Discipleship

 

To get a sense of the current state of discipleship within the American Church, Barna conducted extensive research regarding the spiritual lives of adults and teenagers who have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ and who expect eternal salvation because of their confession of sins and acceptance of Christ as their savior - a group that Barna refers to as “born again Christians.” Several large-scale national surveys among random samples of these people revealed that the faith commitment of most born again believers is not very deep. Among the many examples of the shallowness of believer’s faith that are cited in the book are the following:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Barna noted that most believers stated that their church does little to help them grow as a true disciple. “Few believers said that their church lacked programs, but most Christians complained that little is done to effectively motivate and facilitate their development as genuine, fervent followers of Christ. Our surveys among pastors showed that they dismissed such views as excuses and as inaccurate, but the bottom line remains unchanged: most Christians are simply not making progress in their personal spiritual development.”

 

The research also identified nine substantial obstacles that seem to prevent individuals and churches from having a more satisfying discipleship experience. Among the barriers to spiritual growth described in the book are the tendencies to focus on Bible knowledge (i.e., memorize verses, know the stories of key biblical personalities) but not character development; the lack of a clear and specific idea of what meaningful discipleship is; and unrealistic expectations regarding the role of small groups in the disciple-making process. Barna acknowledged that most churches have many programs and classes that represent the discipleship effort. “Offering programs is not the issue. We discovered that surprisingly few churches have a well-conceived model of discipleship that they implement. The result is that churches feel they have fulfilled their obligation if they provide a broad menu of courses, events, and other experiences, but such a well-intentioned but disjointed approach leaves people confused and imbalanced.”

 

Five Effective Models

 

One of the most unique parts of the book is the description of five effective discipleship models currently in use in churches. Barna explained that his motivation for describing the models was not to encourage churches to adopt one of those models, but to challenge them to clarify their disciple-making philosophy and strategies. “There is no single approach that is right for all churches. However, every church must determine a comprehensive model of facilitating personal spiritual maturity. It is the individual’s responsibility to grow, but it is the church’s privilege to assist them in that process. The five models we studied are approaches that work well for the churches using them. The real challenge for every church is to define a clear, comprehensive and effective model for discipleship that it consistently implements.” The models described were included to spark a greater level of creative and strategic thinking among church leaders.

 

Books Related to a Seminar

 

Growing True Disciples is the second of three books Barna wrote this summer that relate to the nationwide seminar tour that he began in September, and which continues through November of 2001. In the seminar, Barna describes new research related to four topics of concern to church leaders: ministry to the unchurched, effective discipleship, building teams among lay leaders, and evaluating the success of a church’s ministry. In January the third book in the seminar-related set will be released.

 

The current book is based on research among Christian adults and teenagers drawn from several national surveys among born again individuals. Barna’s company also studied the ministry philosophy and practices of churches that are facilitating effective discipleship, to ascertain the strategies and models that enable believers to consistently and significantly grow in their faith and witness.

 

==============================

 

The Year’s Most Intriguing Findings, From Barna Research Studies (001212)

 

While it would be difficult to top the unexpected twists and gyrations of the presidential election, the year in religion was not without its strange or surprising revelations. George Barna reviewed more than a dozen national surveys related to matters of faith conducted by the Barna Research Group during 2000 and devised three lists of faith-related survey results - particularly noteworthy insights, the most encouraging faith-related results, and the most discouraging outcomes. “All year long I have to be objective,” explained the California-based researcher. “This is my one opportunity each year to provide a completely subjective spin on the data we collected.”

 

The 12 Most Noteworthy Results

 

In no particular order, Barna cited the following dozen survey findings as those he deemed the most significant.

 

1. A minority of born again adults (44%) and an even smaller proportion of born again teenagers (9%) are certain of the existence of absolute moral truth.

 

2. 94% of black adults say that having a close, personal relationship with God is a top priority in their life; that dwarfs the proportion among white adults (67%) and Hispanic adults (74%).

 

3. Among born again Christian adults, only 8% tithe their income to their church; 16% give no donations to their church throughout the year.

 

4. Asian-Americans are now more likely than Hispanics to be born again (27% vs. 23%).

 

5. Only 1% of all born again adults firmly concurred with each of 13 basic belief statements from the Bible.

 

6. Fewer than one-third of all teenagers are likely to attend a Christian church once they are living independent of their parents.

 

7. 40% of Christian churches are virtually impossible to reach by telephone, no matter how many calls are made to those churches.

 

8. Unchurched people are typically less relational than are churched people, thereby challenging the wisdom of reliance on personal relationships as the key evangelistic outreach tactic.

 

9. Although most believers say that serving the needy is important to do, just 34% gave any time and money to serve the poor in the past year.

 

10. Most Christians’ votes were influenced more by their economic self-interest than by their spiritual and moral values.

 

11. Only a minority of born again teenagers (44%) claim that they are “absolutely committed to the Christian faith.”

 

12. Baby Buster adults are widely regarded as highly spiritual, yet the share of 18-29 year olds within the born again population has dropped from 20% in 1991 to just 14% today.

 

Barna commented on his “top twelve” list. “These results point out some of the areas in which the Church needs to devote greater attention. Among the major challenges to churches are the 4 Cs: commitment, comprehension, caring and communication. A lot of people attend church services, but relatively few have a deep commitment to their church, to personal ministry and to spiritual maturity. People hear a lot of religious teaching and buy millions of religious books, but there is as much theological confusion as understanding. Compassion is a term that most believers endorse but surprisingly few practice. Better communication is necessary not only to teach people more effectively, but to build more meaningful and lasting relationships and to help people stay focused on the things in life that really matter.”

 

The 7 Most Encouraging Results

 

Not wanting to be confused with this year’s box office champion, The Grinch, Barna identified seven results that he found especially encouraging.

 

1. Since 1996 there has been a rise in the proportion of adults who read the Bible during a typical week, from 34% to 40% in 2000.

 

2. Three-fourths of all adults donated money to a church last year.

 

3. Among adults who are lay leaders in their church, more than nine out of ten prioritize their faith in their life goals.

 

4. Half of all unchurched and non-Christian adults admit that they are seeking meaning and purpose in their life - providing a meaningful entry point for evangelizers.

 

5. Voter turnout in the 2000 presidential election was higher among born again Christians than among non-believers.

 

6. The percentage of adults who earn more than $60,000 annually and have accepted Christ as their savior has nearly doubled since 1991, from 13% to 25%.

 

7. In the past nine years, the percentage of Catholic adults who believes in salvation by grace alone and has accepted Jesus as their savior has grown from 16% to 24%. Denominationally, Catholics are the second-largest group of born again Christians, trailing only Baptists.

 

“In some ways, the Christian faith seems to be penetrating segments of our population that were previously impervious,” Barna noted. “The increased number of born again Christians among the upscale, among Catholics, and even among Asian-Americans is quite encouraging. Although most people still do not read the Bible during a week, the slow but steady increase in the proportion of people who do so is also hopeful.”

 

The 7 Most Discouraging Results

 

1. Born again adults are more likely to experience a divorce than are non-born again adults (27% vs. 24%).

 

2. Although women are more active in church life than are men, their levels of participation in many aspects of church life - from worship attendance to volunteerism - are significantly declining.

 

3. Large proportions of the lay leaders in Christian churches hold a range of unbiblical religious views regarding the holiness of Christ, the reality of Satan, the existence of the Holy Spirit, the reality of the resurrection, and the means to salvation.

4. Desiring to have a close, personal relationship with God ranks just sixth among the 21 life goals tested, trailing such desires as “living a comfortable lifestyle.”

 

5. Born again Christians spend seven times as much time on entertainment as they do on spiritual activities.

 

6. Although two-thirds of all teenagers say they know all the basic teachings and principles of the Christian faith, two-thirds of them reject the existence of Satan, three-fifths reject the existence of the Holy Spirit, and half believe that Jesus sinned during His lifetime.

 

7. In a representative nationwide survey among born again adults, none of the individuals interviewed said that the single, most important goal in their life is to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ.

 

Barna suggested that America is now entering a period that historians will someday regard as the beginning of the era of moral anarchy. The difficulties facing the Church are symptomatic of such an era. “The next ten years will be crucial toward determining the capacity of the American Church to be a serious influence on the culture. Churches have tremendous opportunities to impact millions of people’s lives, and the resources to get the job done are accessible. At issue is whether churches will permit leaders to provide strategic direction and to facilitate meaningful changes in ministry methods. Unprecedented change in ministry methods and in people’s commitment to being lay ministers are required if the Church is to emerge as a player. Hopefully, a year from now, we will struggle to find points of discouragement related to America’s faith condition.”

 

All of the data mentioned in this report are drawn from nationwide surveys of adults, teenagers or pastors conducted during 2000. The sample sizes of those studies range from 600 to 1020 respondents. Additional information related to these statistics is available within the research archives on this website.

 

==============================