Cross
Four in Ten Seekers Would Visit a UMC

A new survey from United Methodist Communications found willingness to visit a United Methodist Church rose to 42 percent in 2019 among U.S. adults seeking more spirituality in their lives and who are aware of the denomination. That's up from 28 percent in 2017.

About half of those who would be willing to visit a United Methodist church said they would definitely or probably do so in the next three months. Millennials are more likely than GenX-ers to say they would probably visit. Among those unwilling to visit, about one in ten say they might attend if invited by someone they knew.

"The takeaway from this study is that The United Methodist Church garners positive perceptions among potential churchgoers despite ongoing conflict within the denomination," said Dan Krause, chief executive of United Methodist Communications. "We believe it's an indicator of the effectiveness of our advertising messages that willingness to visit increased, while our favorability ratings among the seeker population remain stable."

When asked their impression of the denomination, 30 percent of those surveyed responded favorably, while 44 percent had no opinion. That's compared to 28 percent who had a favorable impression in 2017. The sample is among all seekers. 

Awareness of The United Methodist Church was widespread among respondents, with 95 percent of seekers having heard of the UMC. Fifty-eight percent recalled having seen the Cross and Flame logo. Awareness of the denomination's tagline--"Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors."--rose significantly to 52 percent, up from 43 percent in 2017. Seventy-seven of all respondents found the tagline personally relevant. Ninety-seven percent of spiritual seekers with a favorable impression of The United Methodist Church found it appealing.

Additional survey findings include:

  • Nearly half of seekers pray daily or weekly.
  • The top motivation for considering attending a Christian church is spiritual development, followed closely by a wish to reconnect with one's Christian roots. Others cited a desire for their children to grow spiritually or learn about God or a need for support during a difficult time.
  • Among those who are open to visiting a church, the top reasons for considering a specific church were feeling they would fit in or hearing good things about it. More than one in three would visit if personally invited by someone.
  • Feeling accepted and welcomed were the top factors that would motivate seekers to continue attending a church they had visited.
     

The Barna Group fielded this biennial study August 30 through September 11, 2019 using an online panel. The sample of 675 is nationally representative of U.S. adults aged 18-49 screened to make sure they met the definition of a "spiritual seeker" by identifying with at least five of nine statements.

Twenty-one percent of U.S. adults meet the definition of a spiritual seeker. Seekers are more likely to be from suburban areas than rural/small towns, and more likely to reside in the South. Seekers are more likely to be younger than the average population and unmarried (most likely due to their younger age). They are also more likely to be Latino.