Decreasing participation in collective religious worship

Other Names:
Reduction in church attendance
Diminished church role

Decline in attendance at religious worship is a characteristic of a number of religions. The single most common reason given is perceived irrelevance to the life and problems faced by the individual. Other reasons include a feeling of being unwelcome and dislike of the leadership within the religion.


A survey of eight countries found that 54% of Americans visit churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, etc. at least once a month, 45% of Italians, 39% of Austrians, 28% of Dutch, 20% of British and 7% of Hungarians. So few people are entering the clergy that the average age of priests is now close to 60.

In the UK in 1995 it was reported that overall some 14% claim church membership, although this figure is higher in Scotland and Wales than in England and six times higher in Northern Ireland. 8 million people went to church regularly in 1975 but that this had fallen to 6.7 million in 1992; a further fall of a million was predicted by 2000. The report showed that the Church of England had lost 21% of its worshippers in that period, Roman Catholics lost 19%, Methodists 23%, and Presbyterians 24%. It was expected that the Church of England alone would lose 300,000 members and close nearly 600 churches by the year 2005. Despite this, nominal allegiance to the Church of England is high; almost half of the English claim to be Anglicans. As one sociologist put it, it is the Church from which most people choose to stay away.


The fact that few people go to church regularly shows that religious leaders are failing in their central task to answer the spiritual needs of people. They are looking to fulfill the need for meaning from sects, cults, disciplines, therapies etc.



Counter Claim:

Although church attendance is declining across Europe, increasing numbers of people are undertaking pilgrimages and visiting shrines such as the tomb of Saint James (Santiago de Compostela) or Lourdes. Some shrines report that attendance is twice that of a decade ago. These trends are seen as a search for more direct spiritual roots than have been accessible through formal religious practices. Church membership and attendance is increasing amongst evangelical groups as the Pentecostalists. An Islamic revival from the 1980s has ensured numerous conversions to Islam or to Sufism, partly in reaction to the crass materialism of Western civilization.


Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
06.11.2017 – 19:35 CET