Why People Don’t Attend Church

by Ron Edmondson

Let’s discuss church attendance today.

I specifically want to know why some people choose not to attend church.

I want to hear about your experiences, but I also want to hear your opinions.

Recently, I was interviewed for a local online newspaper about the launching of our second campus.  (You can read the article HERE.) In the article, I stated a statistic that 86% of people in our county do not go to church.  That’s what the latest numbers I’m hearing indicate.  I didn’t make the number up, but I didn’t do the research either.  Regardless of the accuracy of the number, no one who believes in church doubts that it is higher than we would like it to be.

So today, I’m wondering why people don’t go to church.  I’m not being naive.  I realize many simply don’t share my faith, but I don’t think that’s the only reason.  Somehow, I think if we understand why people don’t attend church, we can better address the issue.

Dialogue with me.  You might consider some of these questions:

  • Did you grow up in church?
  • Do you go to church regularly now?  How often?
  • Has there ever been a time you didn’t attend church?
  • If so, what kept you from attending?
  • Do you think church attendance is necessary for a believer?
  • Do you have friends or family who do not attend church?
  • What do you think is their reason for not attending?

In your opinion, why do people not attend church these days?

Also interesting to me, in many surveys, a large majority of people indicated that if a friend invited them to church, they would likely attend.  Sounds like we have some work to do.


Some responses:

1. In my demographic the church for many generations served as the “headquarters” for social justice which was a major component in how we sought help from God. For the current generation many if not all of the social injustices that drove our community to the church as a rally point for peace, can now be addressed in a civil context. Allow me to give an example … in 1967 if my mom felt like she was passed over for a promotion on her job due to her race , she would go to church and pray that God would help her accept it and hope that one day America would change. If my sister in 2011 had the same experience on her job, she would file a complaint with HR, the EEOC and then secure legal counsel. The evolution in the socioeconomics of some people groups have left people feeling as if the church is no longer as necessary as it once was… especially when your view of Christ is for a salvation from issues vs. personal sin. Another factor is that we have in all ethnic groups much more competition when it comes to the shaping of worldviews. In times past the church played a pivotal role in providing the culture with its education on morality, eternity, etc. but today the church no longer holds that role exclusively. Intelligence, and life philosophies are being developed through maverick reading not institutional allegiances. So the world’s perception of what makes the church a value add to society is/has changed. Therefore the church needs to reconnect with its non-attending targeting audience and rediscover their “issues” while re-presenting Christ as the solution. IMHO

2. After reading the above “food for thought” I think it’s all the above. So many things displace us from going to church. We all know by going to church we are told to “Love Your Neighbor” to be “Forgiving toward others” like Jesus did. So combine all the above and I think you have your general answers.

1. Not feeling welcomed
2. Not feeling worthy
3. Not feeling the spirit
4. Not feeling like you have a purpose
5. Too many people
6. Too little people
7. No youth
8. No Conviction through the preaching
9. No seriousness about their own personal walk
10. Too busy

And many more to mention

3. I don’t go to church for several reasons. The biggest one is that it is just too early. I don’t get to bed before 4 am at the earliest. The second reason is that with the changes, that horrid “christian rock” praise music, I cannot endure it. Literally. I have seizure disorder and those drums over an ear splitting sound system trigger seizures. Churches have “pushed out” people over 40, and some (Newspring for one) brags about that; Noble says “let them leave, we don’t need them”. I am isolated in church because I am divorced and no one will accept me. I tried one church, and it is not easy to walk into a church alone, new, and sat down, only to be told by a woman “you are in my seat, I always sit there, please move”. I moved, right out the door. Without fail, every church I tried, nobody spoke to me, so I never went back. I gave up. I listen to sermons on line.

4. I can’t speak for anyone else. However I can tell you why I didn’t go to church and what changed my mind on it. I attended church from an early age with my Grandparents. They were religious to a fault but they lacked depth. They played the game well but when it came time to actually do the things being preached they made excuses. Society is lazy and all too often we simply give in to how we feel. Bottom line, if you as a minster and are going to stand before a group of people and preach. You had better be able to REACH them first in the world they live in. It comes down to reaching out and maintaining relationships. That’s all people want because they don’t get that in life. I recently found a church that gets it and now I go regularly. Just be real and keep reaching and people will find you, but beware of the lazy mentality and maintain your friendships. Thnx for the article it reminds me how important people are.

5. As a pastor of a small church in a town with 50,000 plus residents, and as a pastor who has gone door to door to invite people and tell others about Christ, I have heard several reasons of why ‘they’ dont go to church… Now each area is different. Each city has its own reasons as well as the people themselves. But, the biggest reason I hear is….. I was upset/offended/heart broke by someone in the church. Never have I heard the preacher said this or that. I agree with an earlier post that alot of people in church, the members, come across as unsociable. I think back to high school, with all the cliques there, and I see the same in churches today. If you are new, a visitor, or what have you, more than likely you want belong to a clique. Again, while this is seen in my own town, I havent been to alot of other places so I am not saying this is the case across this great country. But, I find it hard to believe it is not the case in some cases. I always hear, “I went to such and such church and only one person shook my hand” or “I didnt feel welcome”. Most people I have spoken to say that they used to be members of a church, used to teach Sunday School, or sung in the chior, or what have you, until some one said, or did something that upset them. They quit going to church completely. If you are some one who is in this same situation, I have something for you. If a group of people made you upset, and you left that church, why didnt you just leave that church, find another one, and not quit God? Yes I grew up in church as a PK. (Pastor’s kid). And now I am a pastor myself. But, if we truly love God, we will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. You may not like Mcdonald’s, so you go to Red Robin, or Burger King for the hamburger of your choice. Has anyone ever considered that maybe the church they were hurt in, may not even be the church God wants them in? God places people where He can use them the most. Keep looking for a church. Maybe, if you dont feel welcome at a particular church, look for a smaller church. It is easier to find a nickel in a pile of 50 pennies than to find a nickel in a pile of 500 pennies. Not giving excuses, but in a church with more people it is easy to over look the new visitor…. May God bless….

6. I also believe this article was a bit misleading…however, that really doesn’t matter. It is important to know why people don’t attend church as often as they might have in the past. I was raised in a ministers home since the day I came into this world. I’ve then been a ministers wife since the day I said “I Do”…..so, my life has been spent in the Church. After serving for twenty years in full time ministry my husband and I stepped out of ministry for about 21/2 years and that’s when I personally gained the most insight on this very question…..Why do people not go to church? It was my first time in my life to enter a church as a “Vistor”. This was the biggest wake up call for both me and my husband. We had always been on the other side and now we were seeing church from a lay person perspective and wow was it a major eye opening experience for us. The bottom line for me was this……it was a very lonely place to be. Church people for the most part were extremely unfriendly, rude, unapproachable and I could go on and on. We left one church in tears and never went back. I’m so glad we had this experience in our life. Going back in the ministry like we have now has given us a huge perspective of how a visitor will feel and does feel. It also answered this exact question you are asking….Why do people stay away from church? I believe in most situations they do not feel welcomed. They feel isolated and awkward. I know we sure did.
God Bless!!! 🙂

7. a. No Challenge….We need Holy Spirit Led preaching/teaching, a sinner needs to be told with Christ’s love that they need to be born again and they cannot live the way that they are and go to heaven…again (with Holy Spirit anointing)

b. Much preaching that I hear is lack “The call to righteousness, separation from the world, but most of all Holy Spirit anointing that causes people to say after you preach. The Lord spoke to me today! Believers need to be pointed to the cross always as well.

8. I’m so ssorry to tell you that we are leaders in our own church (husband and wife) but not one of our three children goes to church. It hurts me more because we are serving God by way of devoting time to the church work but not one of them was convinced to be part of our church. When they were small they go with us but during high school days that’s the time we stop going to church. After about 13 years of not going to church my sister in law always convinced me to go back to church. We made the dicision to go back going to church, but to my disgust not one of my children go with us. They got married to partners not of the same religion, now even if they have kids still they don’t go to church. I’m so worried that my grandchildren doesnot know about Jesus. I cannot bring them myself because I am a member of the choir and if I will bring them I’m afraid they something might happen to them because they are so active children and I cannot just said to them that they just sit in the sunday school room. I cannot care them while I am also in the choir. Their mother used to make their laundry during Sunday and that she has no time to go either on church. For me this is a very big question to my person because I can serve church but I cannot bring my children. Please help me pray to find solutions to this delima.

From a sad grandmother
9. There is a many different reasons that I have personally learned of why people are not attending.
The largest reason is what I have termed the “CCAS” or The Christianity creates Atheism syndrome. The manner in which many Christians act, many talk the talk but fail to walk the walk. They do not deny God in theory, but deny him in practice, they don’t say he doesn’t exist, but with their lives they say he does not. If as Christian can not live and walk as what we say is true then we are setting the picture that God does not matter and that there is not real reason to believe much less follow God. In his book, God in the Wasteland, David Wells gives a stinging critique of modern evangelicalism, and speaks of the “weightlessness of God” in the minds of many Christians and in the worship of many churches. In the end the weightlessness we hold God in our lives we as Christians are leading people into atheism.

Another matter is the re-imaging or reinterpretation of God and of Scripture in order to make God more palatable for us and other. I believe that it was the philosopher Will Durant that said “In the beginning God created man in his own image, and then man kindly returned the favor” This is true, and it’s humorously put, but this is the great sin of man – that man has remade God to suit his own tastes. It then becomes to a point that no one really knows or understands God.

We have repeated out past in which Job speaks of when he says “They say to God, “Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of your ways” (Job 21:14) to the point in which God is not completely unknown but that he is insufficiently known to us like Paul speaks of when he is in Athens (acts 17:16-23) and in this age of nano technology and fast pace life we to have exchanged God for idols such as computers, tv, and money.

If we do not live or understand we can not truly expect others to believe.

10. I used to think that most who didn’t attend church were hurt in previous churches. And there may still be a significant number in that category.

However, it appears to me that, in our society today, a generation (or maybe even a 2nd generation) is growing up without church as a significant factor in their lives. So, when they reach adulthood, they see no point .. or don’t even consider .. attending religious services of any kind.

I fear this latter group is the fastest growing, and they – and their kids – don’t know a thing about the Bible, or faith; and don’t know that they’re missing that from their lives.

11. Dear Pastor Ron, I am trying to share with you some of my experience that I went through when I tried inviting people to go to church. I am from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
I have been actively inviting every unbeliever whom I come to know of. Below are several reasons I heard:
a. They heard their friends or relatives told them that going to church have to pay money. They heard some church ask the members to show them their pay slips every end of the month, to ensure that the member pay 10%. This frighten them because they are struggling financially.
b. Some unbelievers who are working in restaurants or other service industries where they need to work from morning till evenng, with weekends being the most busy hours, their off days are on week days instead of weekends. Some of them work with shifts, sometimes they work from midnight till morning and their shift are not regular. Therefore they cannot attend church.
c. Some are warned by grandparents or parents not to attend church.
d. Some says they are Buddist, but they hardly go temple to pray.
e. Some Indians, their family members will not allow them to attend church.
f. We cannot invite or share gospel with any Muslim to church in our country, its illegal.
g. I am an intercessor, I love to share gospels with unbelievers and encourage them to experience Jesus. I usually pray with them and pray for them so that they experience the greatness of God in lifting up their problems. Mot of them received Jesus ‘s faithfulness in their lives but after their problems are resolved, or after Jesus grant them what they want, ( perhaps granding them their dream jobs ), they give a lot of excuses when they are asked to go to church.
h Some had been share the words of God, they remain silence and not responding when invited.
i. Some says their relatives so and so are Christian then disappeared.
j.A blind begger told me his son or daughter is Christian but he says they have been harsh to him.
k. A single mother was invited to church, she left her son and daughter in Sunday school. But the son was rejected by other children in Sunday school, the daughter was hurt accidently in Sunday school until her finger bleed. So she does not like to come to church anymore. Also this single mother did not experience much breakthrough eventhough she was prayed for many times.
These are my experience that I can share. Hope it helps.

8 responses to “Why People Don’t Attend Church

  1. I was very active in my church for many years, that was until the church took a hard turn right into the literal biblical interpretation camp.
    My disadvantage as a deacon was that I had too much education, in particular in the biological sciences.
    When the church took to denying evolution and took the stand of declaring unilaterally that all of creation was only 6,000 years old, I discussed my concern with my fellow deacons and our pastor. As a result of that meeting I was asked to resign as a deacon. When I refused I was told that I would no longer be welcome in the church.
    I was heartbroken for many rears after that encounter. More heartbroken still as I see the youth of the church leaving in droves, all that remain are the older members who still hold steadfast to their alternative view of reality.
    The church I loved as a child and as a young man has become nothing more that a cult actively promoting falsehoods and lies.

    • I am a teenager exposed to drugs, alcohol, sex, and many other bad influences. I know that people do these things to stay “cool,” or to be welcomed by their peers. I have little friends that actually attend church: even my best friends are anti-religion. I have found that God isn’t as “cool” as the bad influences that surround our teens today, thus, many students are not interested in going to church. I come from a very Christian family and I belong to our church’s youth choir. I enjoy attending church, but I feel like an outsider in my society because of it. Many kids that feel the same way I do will push God away in the hopes of becoming “cool” like the other kids. Parents do not encourage church as much as they used to because they believe their kids are lost causes, (religion wise), or they themselves have been influenced by drugs or alcohol. People of all ages are beginning to ditch Christ for the “cool” things.

    • I feel bad when I heard your story! I believe that your church is a very traditional church! They need to learn how to hear some alternative view, of course. But I still wondering that they want to keep some stand and hope that not letting some unnecessary influence spreading. This is not what I want to say. I only want to encourage you that if you believe in God genuinely, pray to Him and He will show you the way. Keep our eyes on our Lord, not to human deed. Each church has its own policy to run its ministry. Pray for you. Immanuel

  2. Forme the main reason why people in western societies no longer go to church is firstly they don’t see the need and secondly the churches themselves do not express God’s love. They may be many sub reasons but if you think you don’t need God and people can’t show you that you do need to have a relationship with God and with them, then they won’t go along

  3. I started going to church because I was seriously committed to Jesus as my Lord and Savior. However I found that many Pastors had no problems manipulating and lying to collect that ten percent in tithe money, even if it meant using fear and condemnation or quoting an Old Covenant Malachi 3:8-9 curse that does not apply to those in Christ after his death on the cross.

    Once I read Galatians 3:13 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse I was found it hard to believe anything most of these Pastors said. Sad part is they still hold on to the Malachi 3 curse to collect their pay and gullible robots don’t question it or read that if you’re in Christ he nailed all curses to the cross which means this voids the Malachi curse even over not having ten percent to always pay. After reading my entire bible and understanding that Jesus said It is Finished as in Paid in full and not Pay in Full i can no longer trust these Pastors to have my best interest at heart. My passion for church has waned. The ironic part is I have always been a generous giver, but I draw the line when I have been manipulated or lied to.

  4. I started going to church because I was seriously committed to Jesus as my Lord and Savior. However I found that many Pastors had no problems manipulating and lying to collect that ten percent in tithe money, even if it meant using fear and condemnation or quoting an Old Covenant Malachi 3:8-9 curse that does not apply to those in Christ after his death on the cross.

    Once I read Galatians 3:13 “Christ has redeemed us from the curse I found it hard to believe anything most of these Pastors said. Sad part is they still hold on to the Malachi 3 curse to collect their pay and gullible robots don’t question it or read that if you’re in Christ he nailed all curses to the cross which means this voids the Malachi curse even over not having ten percent to always pay. After reading my entire bible and understanding that Jesus said It is Finished as in Paid in full and not Pay in Full i can no longer trust these Pastors to have my best interest at heart. My passion for church has waned. The ironic part is I have always been a generous giver, but I draw the line when I have been manipulated or lied to.

  5. I was raised a Roman Catholic. At the age of twenty one, I left the church and stopped attending mass. In later years, I attended other churches but stopped attending church altogether. The reason? Because none of the church services (Catholic and other denominations) I attended filled me with strong, unswerving faith in the God. That is, if he exists. Perhaps he does. On the other hand, perhaps he does not. I am an agnostic, and find the whole process of attending church a complete waste of time. It is a fine activity for people who have faith in God, but I am not one of them. Also, based on my experience I have concluded that attending church is a rather superficial, social event that is filled with quite a bit of hypocrisy. There are people who attend church every Sunday because it is the proper thing to do, and looks good from a social standpoint. I will not participate in an activity that I don’t believe it.

  6. I left 3 churches for basically the same reason- money. Once I’ve been there long enough, a deacon or assistant to the pastor will pay special attention to me. And then the invitation to become a member soon follows. At this point, I am often driven out – harass or heckled or hounded to give 10 % of my income. I ended up leaving. As it stands, I’ve finally given up seeking another church. I not can spend my money treating myself to some delicious goodies. And I saved money on gasoline, a fancy wardrobe, and time alone to enjoy.

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