Apr 3, 2013

Church Attendance

I would like to ask a thought-provoking question. Or two. Or several.

I recently had a discussion with the leader of a local church. In that conversation I asked him to gauge the spiritual desires of people in the area and the effect those desires were having on church attendance. He told me that although attendance was down for his congregation, he felt many people of Fillmore County have spiritual awareness in their lives. He said they may not attend church every week, but they are still clued in on their beliefs.

I think it's safe to assume that we have a very prominent Christian demographic in this area. Each town has a church building and sometimes several of different denominations. The thing I would like to address and cause pondering over is whether these church buildings are becoming just buildings or if they are becoming churches.

There was a common occurrence with my family on Easter Sunday. We would all wake up earlier than we had on other Sundays and leave for church earlier, so as to arrive earlier. We did this because we knew that our church would have their biannual influx of parishioners we never knew existed the rest of the year; Christmas was the same story.

When I was younger, I was worried that my family and I wouldn't be able to find a seat in the pews and instead have to sit in the rows of folding chairs placed behind the pews. The partition separating the church from the church hall was usually pulled back on Easter and more chairs placed there.

Later on in my teenage years, I would hear of the label attached to those people who showed up for Christmas and Easter only. They were C.E.Os. I don't think that should be a demeaning label, but I also think it isn't necessary to label people who are or aren't attending church. I think there is a larger issue at hand here. Why are there people only showing up to their respective churches twice or once a year?

I was raised to place priority on attending church. When I was younger, I did it because my family did it. Now, I do it because I want to go to church. For myself, I have found attending church to be spiritually enriching. A large part of who I am is filled and made whole when I attend church every week. This is who I am. I place church attendance very high on my priority list.

There are people, I'm sure, who attend pretty regularly and make half of all services throughout the year. I cannot speak for these people, but I would assume many feel comfortable with their attendance and feel their spiritual needs are met.

There are also people who attend church once or twice a year. Again, I cannot speak for these people, but I would assume many feel comfortable with their attendance and feel their spiritual needs are met.

Church attendance seems to vary on a wide spectrum and, for that matter, on interest in religion and spiritual matters as well. Why is this? Also, for the individual reader, why do you place the priorities you do on attending church and being involved in religion?

I suspect the answers and reasons will vary for that question. Let me go a little deeper. The leader of the local church I spoke with said although attendance was decreasing, he felt people still have their spiritual beliefs and needs. My question now is, what do we want from religion?

When I was growing up, it seemed to me that many people didn't want much religion, which is why they only went to church once or twice a year. I realize now that may not be the reason for all people, but I could be wrong. I am interested in the variety of responses that could come from these questions.

I still haven't addressed what the church leader said about people maintaining their beliefs, but still not attending church. Again, there may be a variety of factors involved in this issue, but allow me to ask a few more questions. A building where people congregate to worship, according to the precepts of their religion, is called a church. For example, the followers of the Lutheran religion meet in a Lutheran church building. The question: Why are there people who claim to believe in their religion, but over and over again choose not to commune with others who believe in the same thing?

I don't think there has been a Pew or Gallup poll in the area on this, so I encourage responses to any or all of the questions I have asked. You can comment directly to the article on the Bluff Country Reader column website or send me an email at aadamek@bluffcountrynews.com.

This post was originally published as a column for the Bluff Country Newspaper Group in the Apr. 1 issue of the Bluff Country Reader. Please comment below or as directed in the article. 

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