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US church membership drops below 50% for first time, poll finds

Church Closings
Posted at 1:27 PM, Mar 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-29 16:27:35-04

A majority of Americans are not church members, according to a Gallup poll released Monday, marking a first in the poll’s 80-year history.

According to Gallup, 47% of Americans were members of a religious institution in 2020, whether it be a church, synagogue, mosque or other religious body. The 2020 figures are part of a trend that began in 2000, showing a steady decline in church membership.

While church membership generally remained around 70% through much of the 21st century, church membership declined from 70% in 2000 to 47% in 2020. While millennials are less likely than other generations to be tied to a religion, all living generations have seen their membership drop.

Gallup found that in 2000, 77% of those born before 1946 belonged to a church. Now, it’s 66%. In 2000, 67% of those born between 1946 and 1964 were church members. Now, it’s 58%. Generation X, those born between 1965 and 1980, saw a drop from 62% to 50% from 2000 to 2020.

While Gallup did not have data of millennial church membership from in 2000, those born during 1981 to 1996 saw a decline in church membership from 51% to 36 in the last decade.

While 53% say they are not members of a church, that does not mean all 53% of Americans have no religious affiliation. While only 36% of millennials are members a church, 31% say they have no religious affiliation, leaving one-third of millennials somewhere between being a member of a religious institution and not being religious at all.

The consequences of declining church membership can be felt throughout the US. While Gallup says there is not a precise number, the organization estimates that thousands of churches in the US are closing each year.