, , ,

Research Group: Church Attendance In Wisconsin Continues To Decline

Number Attending Services Drops From About 80 Percent In 2003 To Below 50 Percent In 2019

Cross on top of a church
Brynn Anderson/AP Photo

Church attendance at Christian places of worship continues to drop in Wisconsin, according to the Barna Group, which tracks faith trends.

The research group finds the percentage of people who attended services within the past month is now below 50 percent, down from about 80 percent in 2003. The majority of Wisconsinites identify as Christian, according to the Barna Group.

Fifty-nine percent of Wisconsin Christians strongly agreed their faith is important to them, and 31 percent somewhat agreed.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Brooke Hempell, Barna’s senior vice president of research, told WPR’s “The Morning Show” on Friday that those numbers suggest those who don’t attend services regularly may be feeding their faith in other ways.

“People may be involved in a Bible study that’s separate from their church, or just not part of the Sunday morning service,” she said. “They may even be consuming church service online.”

Hempell said as fewer people identify as religious, there’s less social expectation to regularly attend services.

And, she said, many people now find other ways to meet the needs a religious community can provide, such as social connection, sometimes through social media and online communication.

Even some longtime churchgoers, Hempell said, have stopped attending services or cut back, though not always by choice.

“If you see a shifting demographic in the church, where the larger proportion of attendees is older, and the older attendees find it harder to get to church regularly, because of various health issues that come up, that makes the overall (participation rate) drop as well,” she said.

Savannah Kimberlin, director of research at Barna Group, said tradition and family connections to a church or religious community still play a role in attendance, though over time that may change.

“Many times that also manifests itself in attending Christmas or Easter services with family and still remaining connected to the local church in a bit of a way,” she said. “But we do wonder what is the future going to look like as those (traditions) fade.”

Related Stories