The Churched, the Under-Churched and the Unchurched

Americans talk the talk when it comes to religion, especially in comparison to the other developed countries. But do they walk the walk? Several polls yield a mixed verdict.

A survey by The Barna Group found 23 percent of adults saying they attended neither a conventional church nor an “organic faith community” (such as a house church) in the past year. Another 15 percent had participated in a conventional church or organic faith community within the past year, but not within the past month. These “unchurched” or “under-churched” respondents were outnumbered, though, by the 56 percent who’d attended a conventional church (but not an unconventional one) in the past month. Three percent had gone to a regular church and a house church, and another 3 percent had participated in a house church but not a conventional church.

With different wording and respondent pool (registered voters), an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll got slightly different results. Fewer than half its respondents (42 percent) said they attend religious services once a week or more. Ten percent said they do so about twice a month, 8 percent once a month, 15 percent a few times a year and 7 percent once a year. Fifteen percent said they never darken the door of a place of worship. Gallup polling, meanwhile, found 41 percent of adults saying they