Black Community Opinions

Local Voices: Getting More People To Attend Church

In these times churches are finding it difficult to fill their pews. A study by Pew Research indicates that there is a significant decrease in attendance in Church services across the nation. According to the study the percentage of Americans who say they “seldom” or “never” attend religious service (aside from weddings and funerals) has risen only modestly in the past decade.

Roughly three-in-ten U.S. adults (29 percent) now say they seldom or never attend worship services, up from 25 percent in 2003, according to aggregated data from Pew Research Center surveys. The share of people who say they attend services at least once a week has remained relatively steady; 37 percent say they attend at least weekly today, compared with 39 percent a decade ago.

Many of those surveyed don’t feel that religion is important in their life. Some of the reasons cited included 16 percent who say they are too busy – as reasons they do not attend more often. Another 24 percent mention conflicts of health problems or transportation difficulties. Nearly four-in-ten (37 percent) point to an issue directly related to religion or church itself.

The most common religion-related responses are their church leaders, or beliefs that attending worship services is not important. Almost one-in-ten (9 percent) do not attribute their lack of attending at religious services to anything in particular.

In-light of the survey my question is: would attendance increase if the focus of content was not only biblically based but also tied to contemporary issues such as relating scripture to today’s current events and how to cope as the people of God did in biblical times?

There are other issues I attribute to people not going to church. One is the time length of services. Some services are often too long and redundant with little substance. The message should be clear and short. In additional people typically have little or no interaction in church services, other than saying “amen” to the pastor. They usually become bored while sitting and listening to a service that’s too long.

I have been a member of Covenant Presbyterian Church for more than 7 years and feel obligated to confess and share how I have grown by attending church worship services and particularly Sunday School classes. The classes are led by a teacher who is steeped in the Word of God and knows how to facilitate the group for effective understanding and learning. She uses as a guide the “Wired Word,” nondenominational adult Sunday School material that brings current events into our weekly discussion sessions.

The lessons provide a simple narrative recounting stories of a recent event of the week; five related questions; and four to five Bible scriptures that relate to the narrative. It generates interest and much discussion ensues relating the message contained in the scripture passages to current headlines. Current events are analyzed in a biblical context. This generates much discussion and excitement as others and I learn the Word of God.

I am eager to get to church for Sunday School every Sunday. The curriculum uses a contemporary method to teach the Bible and God’s words. Class members interact with one another sharing different viewpoints to interpret and get a full understanding of Old Testament stories as well as Jesus’s verses and parables.

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The teacher provides religious context to the sessions and there are several in the class who I consider to be Bible scholars along with others like myself who are relatively new students of the Bible. The interactive nature of the class maintains the interest of all the learners who go away informed and inspired.

Those who feel that God is important in their life and who find meaning in expressing their views about God’s grace like I do, should not stay home but join us at Covenant Sunday School. Come and, as the old song says, “Taste and See that the Lord is good.” Come taste and see.

Shedrick Byrd is a frequent contributor to the New Journal and Guide.

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