College Students and Religious Attendance

Church Relevance quotes the Pew Forum study:
Religious Attendance

  • 43.7% of freshmen frequently attend religious services.
    25.4% of juniors frequently attend religious services.
  • 20.2% of freshmen never attend religious services.
    37.5% of juniors never attend religious services.

Measures of Spirituality

  • 48.7% of freshmen say “attaining inner harmony” is “very important” or “essential.”
    62.7% of juniors say “attaining inner harmony” is “very important” or “essential.”
  • 41.8% of freshmen say “integrating spirituality in my life” is “very important” or “essential.”
    50.4% of juniors say “integrating spirituality in my life” is “very important” or “essential.”
  • 62.8% of freshmen agree with the statement “most people can grow spiritually without being religious.”
    74.8% of juniors agree with the statement “most people can grow spiritually without being religious.”

I commented as follows: “There are, of course, multiple reasons why this is happening. For many, it’s the first time away from home and away from many structures they had growing up. All the temptations and new experiences aside, college is a challenging experience on every level. I went to a Christian college and faced lots of new ideas from various kinds of people.

How strong is their foundation? How many ‘easy answers’ were they given? Have they talked much with people different from them? Do they own their faith? Students are still searching for identity in college, and if not prepared and not supported, this isn’t surprising at all.”

I should add that ‘religious attendance’ can be subjective. Does that count small groups? Para-church gatherings? Praying with a friend? It can be hard to commit to a community church while in college when there are so many activities your friends are involved with on campus. It is interesting, for sure, to see results that communicate students go to church services less but are more interested in spirituality. I bet part of that is coming to own one’s journey more.