Survey examines how weather, sports, and sleep affect if and when churchgoers go to church.
Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail against His church, but sleet and hail will keep many churchgoers out of the pew on a Sunday. In fact, some may even skip to get a little extra sleep or watch their favorite team.
A Lifeway Research study of U.S. adults who attend a religious service at a Protestant or non-denominational church at least monthly finds several reasons some will miss church at least once a year.
Respondents were asked how often they would skip a weekly worship service for six different scenarios—to avoid severe weather, to enjoy an outdoor activity in good weather, to get extra sleep, to meet friends, to avoid traveling when it’s raining, or to watch sports.
One in 10 Protestant churchgoers (11%) say they would never skip for any of these reasons. Twice as many (22%) say they would never skip due to the five options besides severe weather situations.
“Churchgoers are not on autopilot. Each week they are faced with a choice of whether to attend church, and there is more than one tradeoff when it comes to this decision,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research.
Severe and sunny weather-related absences
Most regular churchgoers say they would miss a weekly worship service at least once a year to avoid traveling in severe weather (77%), to enjoy an outdoor activity (55%), or to get some extra sleep (54%). Half (50%) would do so to meet a friend or group of friends. Fewer say they’d skip to not have to travel when it was raining (43%) or to watch a sporting event or their favorite team (42%).
“Sometimes churchgoers conclude it’s safer to skip church and not be on the roads,” said McConnell. “But many will also skip church if they feel …