New Pew Forum Study on Changing Religions

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Ministry Today summarizes some interesting findings of a new Pew Forum study released on Monday on how often Americans change their religion.

Last year a massive nationwide survey discovered that 44 percent of Americans switch denominations in their lifetime. Now an in-depth study is taking it a step further by uncovering how many change religions —and exactly why they do.

A report released Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that roughly half of Americans change their religious affiliation at some point in their lives. Most people who change do so before they are 24 years old, and many of those actually switch multiple times. Not surprisingly, most believers settle into their faith at an older age, with very few people leaving their religion after turning 50. (The majority of those surveyed found their current church home at age 36.)

Among Protestants, more than half who become unaffiliated with any denomination or religion say it’s because they “stopped believing its teachings.” In addition, almost 40 percent of those who no longer attend church remain unaffiliated because of their spiritual needs not being met.

Although the reasons for changing religions —or leaving a faith altogether —range from theological disagreements to simple spiritual drifting, pastors will be interested to find that the majority of Protestants who have changed denominations have done so because of life circumstances (marriage, relocating to different community) rather than doctrinal differences. Still, a full 36 percent say they leave their denomination because of their church, practices or people.

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2 thoughts on “New Pew Forum Study on Changing Religions

  1. I have followed a several pastors in my ministry. some of them I followed immediately. Some I followed with other pastors in between, yet even with the interviening years, they still left behind a trail of destruction. In my experience most people leave a church for relational reasons — there was a pastor or some number of lay persons with a horrible lack of interpersonal skills. Doctrine is vital, but if we think we can fill our bible college/seminary curriculum with doctrine and all else will naturally follow we’re fooling ourselves…

    • That’s true. There’s nothing like good old-fashioned people skills. I guess it really gets down to just showing love and exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit. It takes time to cultivate those virtues with the help of the Spirit, so it seems we need to make that a priority. Maybe that should be a required seminary class — Interpersonal Skills 101.

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