The Princeton Religion Research Center recently published statistics demonstrating the connection between religious faith and a person's character, health, and productivity. According to their findings, attending church services is the most significant factor in predicting a person's charitable giving habits and volunteer activity. They conclude:
• Young people (grades six through twelve) who attend church services at least once a month are half as likely as young people who do not attend church to engage in at-risk behaviors, such as substance abuse, sexual excess, truancy, vandalism, and drunk driving.
• Persons who attend church are more likely to help neighbors in need than non-churchgoers.
• A strong majority of Americans, 75 percent, say religious practice has strengthened their family relationships.
• Church attendance lowers the rate of suicide.
• The presence of active churches and synagogues reduces violent crime activity in an area.
• People who claim religious faith are less likely to drop out of school, become single parents, or abuse drugs or alcohol.
• Church involvement is the single, most-important factor in enabling African-American males to escape the destructive cycle of the inner-city ghetto.
• Persons who attend church at least once a month are more than twice as likely to stay married as persons who attend church once a year or less.
• Religious faith is a key to happiness, with 96 percent of Americans who say they are generally happy reporting that religious faith is the most important influence in their lives.
• Religious faith is tied to a person's view of work, with 65 percent of those who say their occupation is exciting and fulfilling also saying they find comfort and support from their religious beliefs.
• Most people who are excited about the future (80 percent) and who feel close to their families (94 percent) are religious.
• A strong majority of Americans, 80 percent, say religious beliefs lead them to respect themselves.
• Persons who attend church regularly are less susceptible to cardiovascular diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, emphysema, and arteriosclerosis. Regular church attendance is a primary factor in preventing substance abuse and in helping a person repair the damage caused by substance abuse.
What Really Matters to Church Prospects?
In a survey by the Barna Research Group conducted among a national random sample of U.S. adults, those who attend a Christian church were asked what qualities they would prioritize if they moved to a different community and were seeking a church to attend. Of the twenty-two factors tested, six proved to be of great importance to people, three others were of moderate importance, and the remaining thirteen were of lesser importance.
According to the report, "Easily the three most significant factors were the beliefs and doctrine of the church, how much the people in the church seem to care about each other, and the quality of the sermons. A majority of churchgoers listed each of these factors as "extremely important."
"The other three items that are the highest priority for church shoppers are friendliness to visitors, involvement in serving the poor and disadvantaged, and the quality of programs and classes for children. Roughly 45 percent of adult churchgoers identified each of these elements as "extremely important."'
The survey of adults was a national telephone survey of 1,015 interviews conducted in July 1998 among a national random sample of people 18 or older. Here are the top twenty-two factors Americans cited as "extremely important" in choosing a church.
1) The theological belief and doctrine of the church
2) How much the people seem to care about each other
3) Sermon quality
4) Friendliness to visitors
5) The church's involvement in helping the poor and disadvantaged
6) Quality of programs and classes for children
7) The likability of the pastor
8) The church's denomination
9) The quality of adult Sunday School classes
10) Convenience of times of weekend services
11) Ministries and other programs in addition to weekend services
12) Quality of music in the service
13) Type of music in weekend service
14) How far the church is from the respondent's home
15) Amount of music included in the service
16) Comfort of the auditorium
17) Sermon length
18) Availability of midweek small groups or home groups
19) Emphasis on fund-raising and money
20) The number of friends the person has who attend that church
21) Availability of parking space
22) The demographics and background of the people attending