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What is keeping more than 60 percent of Americans out of the pews?

Published: Monday, Sept. 16 2013 3:30 p.m. MDT

Worship service attendance has roughly stayed the same the past 10 years, at just under 40 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.

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Church attendance likely bumped up across the country this past Sunday in response to the annual Back to Church initiative.

The Back to Church Sunday outreach effort was supported by nearly 21,500 churches, according to Christianity Today.

Supporters of the movement told the Deseret News last year that if Christians invite a friend to attend church with them it can be "more far-reaching than a blip in attendance at a time when statistics show rolls at Protestant faiths around the country are thinning and only a small percentage of Christians are willing to share their faith with non-churchgoers."

They hope their outreach can also shore up the faith of the regular churchgoer as well as attract new believers.

Worship service attendance has roughly stayed the same the past 10 years, at just under 40 percent, according to the Pew Research Center. And there is plenty of research exploring what is keeping more than 60 percent of Americans out of the pews.

Recent coverage has pointed the finger at competing activities, such as sports, shopping and other entertainment, that lure people away from worship services.

But Steve McMullin, an associate professor at Acadia Divinity College in Nova Scotia, Canada, doesn't agree. He told the Christian Post that his research indicates something else is going on within the churches, not outside, that's pushing people away.

"My sociological analysis of the data from the congregations in the study indicates that it is not external factors, such as Sunday sports, but instead it is internal factors, including an unwillingness (on behalf of churches) to change, that has had the biggest effect," McMullin said.

He told the Christian Post that the change churches are not willing to embrace that would have the largest impact on attendance is adding additional worship times outside of Sunday mornings.

His study, "The Secularization of Sunday: Real or Perceived Competition for Churches," was published in the Review of Religious Research (which charges a fee to access the entire study).

Email: mbrown@deseretnews.com

Twitter: @deseretbrown

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