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Christian media’s reach surveyed by LifeWay Research

NASHVILLE (BP) — Christian broadcasters have a devoted following, with about two-thirds of weekly churchgoers and evangelicals saying they tune in to Christian radio and television on a regular basis.

Christian books have a reach among churchgoers and evangelicals, and Christian movies remain popular, with about four in 10 Americans having seen one in the last year.

But many Americans never connect to Christian media.

Those are among the findings of a new study on the use of Christian media from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The study, sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters, included an online survey of 2,252 Americans and a phone survey of 1,009 Americans.

“Christian media delivers teaching, music and entertainment to a predominantly Christian constituency,” Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research, noted. “Not surprisingly, those who embrace Christian teaching will value and consume these the most.” Stetzer released the study’s findings Feb. 25 during the NRB national convention in Nashville.

Researchers found demographic splits between those who frequently or sometimes listen to or watch Christian broadcasts and those who rarely or never tune in.

Self-identified evangelicals are more likely to watch Christian television (69 percent according to the survey) along with weekly church attenders (62 percent) and African Americans (54 percent).

They also are more likely to listen to Christian radio compared to 32 percent of all Americans.

About two-thirds of evangelicals (67 percent) and more than half of weekly church attenders (57 percent) are Christian radio listeners. Just under half (46 percent) of African Americans also tune in. Overall, about one in four (27 percent) Americans frequently or sometimes listens to Christian radio

More Protestants and nondenominational Christians (45 percent) watch Christian television than Catholics (28 percent). Radio has a similar denominational split. Just under half (41 percent) of Protestants and nondenominational Christians tune in, along with one in five (21 percent) Catholics.

“It’s stunning to see how many American believers are listening to or watching Christian media,” said Jerry Johnson, president of National Religious Broadcasters, an international association of Christian broadcasters and communicators. “But we must be more effective stewards of all media forms, especially to reach those who have yet to believe,” Johnson said.

Christian books fare about the same as Christian broadcasting. About a third of Americans (33 percent) say they frequently or sometimes read Christian books. Two-thirds (65 percent) rarely or never read Christian books.

Still, many Americans have little contact with Christian media.

Two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) rarely or never watch Christian television, rising to 94 percent of those who skip church all together and 89 percent of those with no religious affiliation.

Seven in 10 Americans (72 percent) rarely or never listen to Christian radio, with increased numbers among those with no religious affiliation (94 percent) or who rarely attend church (84 percent) or never do so (97 percent).

Films & online media

Christian movies, meanwhile, have wider appeal. Four in 10 Americans (40 percent) say they’ve watched a Christian movie in the last year. About half (51 percent) have not. One in 10 (9 percent) said they are not sure.

Americans over 65 (31 percent) are less likely to have seen a Christian movie than those 18-29 (40 percent). African Americans (59 percent), evangelicals (74 percent) and weekly churchgoers (64 percent) are more likely to have seen a Christian movie.

Those with no religious affiliation (11 percent) and those from non-Christian faiths (37 percent) are least likely to have seen a Christian film.

“Great movies hinge on great stories and the Bible is filled with great stories,” Stetzer said. “These numbers show that many Americans are watching, and perhaps this will encourage more and better films.”

Christian media also has found a significant audience online.

One in 4 Americans (25 percent) say they watch or listen to Christian programming every week on their computer, phone or tablet, according to the phone survey. An additional 5 percent tune in online monthly. One in 10 (9 percent) watch or listen online less than once a month.

“That would amount to over 60 million adult Americans each week,” Stetzer reported.

Six in 10 (60 percent) never watch or listen on their computer, smartphone or tablet.

Few Americans (4 percent) listen to Christian podcasts frequently. About 1 in 10 listen sometimes. Most Americans (84 percent) rarely or never listen to Christian podcasts.


The online survey of adult Americans was conducted Sept. 17-18, 2014. A sample of an online panel demographically reflecting the adult population of the U.S. was invited to participate. Responses were weighted by region, age, ethnicity, gender and income to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 2,252 online surveys.

The phone survey of Americans was conducted Jan. 29-Feb. 1, 2015. The calling utilized Random Digit Dialing. Fifty percent of completes were among landlines and 50 percent among cell phones. Weights were used for geographic, demographic and socioeconomic characteristics to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,009 surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus or minus 3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

    About the Author

  • Bob Smietana
    Bob Smietana is a veteran religion reporter who serves as editor-in-chief of Religion News Service.Read All by Bob Smietana ›