Re: the Barna Group’s Report on Faith in NYC since 9-11

Anyone interested in christianity in New York City or the impact 9-11 had on faith in general should read the recent Barna Group Study exploring faith in New York since 9-11. Fascinating Stuff.

We gave it a close read here at FaithStreet and here are some initial reactions:

  • The study shows that NYC is a more spiritually active place than it was 10 years ago. Almost every metric points to an increase in spiritual activity.

  • These findings also defy the commonly held belief (especially by those outside NYC) that New York is an extremely secular place.

  • 61% of people in the New York media market (around 15 million people) claimed that religious faith is very important to them. This means about 10 million people in our area claim religious faith is important to them. 34% of people in the New York media market are “unchurched” (meaning they haven’t been to church in the last 6 months). This is about 5 million people. Now let’s make the assumption that at least 20% of the unchurched are also people who claim faith is very important to them. If that’s the case, then 1 million people consider faith to be very important to them, but haven’t been to church in at least 6 months. This represents an incredible potential opportunity for churches in New York to do outreach to the religiously inclined, but unchurched segment of the population.

  • The unchurched declined from 42% in 2001 to 34% today. People are going to church more often.

  • The number of people self-identifying as born-again soared from 20% in 2001 to 32% in 2010. What do you think accounts for this?

  • The study’s author argues that the findings show that “the increase in church attendance, does not appear correlated to the 9-11 attacks. Most of the change in spiritual behavior seems to have happened since the middle of the last decade.” This doesn’t account for the effect church plants inspired by the 9-11 attacks might have had on church attendance. Assuming that it takes 1-2 years for a church plant to get going, the authors might fail to account for the impact church plants inspired by 9-11 had on overall church attendance by the middle of the decade. In general, the effects of the 9-11 attacks might have been more slow-building than immediate.

  • The study’s distinction between the “born-again” and the “evangelicals” seems curious. It’s hard for us to believe that if 32% of New Yorkers consider themselves born-again, only 1% of New Yorkers qualify as “evangelical” or those who call themselves born again and believe in “the necessity of sharing one’s faith with others, rejecting works-based salvation, and accepting the accuracy of Scripture principles.” We wonder how the Barna Group came about this number…