Many American Protestant churchgoers say they would never skip a Sunday worship service for common reasons like sports, sleep and social plans, according to a new survey conducted by a research organization on behalf of Lifeway Research. The poll of 1,002 churchgoers aimed to gauge how often they would miss services for various situations.
Overall, the results showed a high level of commitment to attending worship each week. 58% said they would never skip for their favorite sports team. 46% would never miss services to get extra sleep. And 50% said they would not skip to meet up with friends.
The survey also asked about weather-related reasons for missing church. 57% said they would never skip due to rain. But only 23% said they would never miss because of severe weather like snow, ice or tornadoes. Still, the most common response was skipping only a few times a year for severe weather (39% selected this option).
There were some notable divides in the results based on demographics. Women were more likely than men to say they would never skip worship for multiple reasons like sports and rain. Older adults over 65 also stood out as the age group most committed to weekly attendance regardless of circumstance.
Ethnicity and region appeared to play a role as well. African-Americans were more likely to say they would skip annually or a few times per year compared to white respondents. People in the Midwest were generally less likely to skip services for any reason when compared to other U.S. regions.
The level of religious commitment also impacted responses. Those who attend worship 4+ times per month were more likely to say they would “never” skip compared to those who only attend 1-3 times monthly. People with evangelical beliefs were also more committed to weekly attendance.
In terms of specifics, sports was one area with lots of variation. Overall 58% said they would never skip church for sports. But just 54% of men said this compared to 61% of women. Younger adults under 35 were also far more likely to admit skipping for sports compared to seniors.
The Midwest stood out as the region most committed to attending church versus spectating sports with just 8% of Midwesterners saying they would skip worship multiple times per year for sports. Meanwhile, those with evangelical beliefs (69%) were also far more likely than non-evangelicals (50%) to choose attending church over watching sports.
Skipping for more sleep showed similar demographic patterns. Younger adults were the most willing to sacrifice church for extra rest on Sundays. Seniors again stood out as the least likely to miss worship for sleep. There were also differences along ethnic lines – with white and other minority groups attending more consistently than African-American and Hispanics according to the data.
When it comes to good weather, younger adults were again more prone to miss services in order to enjoy outdoor activities compared to their elders. Enjoying outdoor recreation on nice days was another area where those with evangelical beliefs were less likely to skip than the non-evangelicals polled.
Avoiding travel due to rain showed less variation overall. Though once again women, seniors, Midwesterners and evangelicals came out as less likely to miss church for rain. There was more willingness to skip for severe weather overall, though evangelicals and frequent attenders still came out as less likely to miss worship in those cases.
Finally when it comes to social plans, younger adults and infrequent attenders were the groups most open to skipping worship to meet up with friends instead. Women and evangelicals said they would be less likely to sacrifice church for socializing.
The common thread across nearly all the reasons was that very devout churchgoers – like seniors, evangelicals and frequent attenders – were less likely to voluntarily miss weekly services. While situational factors like sports, weather and friends had an influence, level of religious commitment appeared to be the biggest predictor of attendance habits.
These findings can help church leaders understand what factors may keep people from attending on a given Sunday. While circumstances do come up, many devoted churchgoers still prioritize weekly worship no matter what. Church communities can always work to strengthen their commitment to gathering in faith. But this survey shows most active churchgoers already possess a steadfast desire to come together in worship each Sunday.