How often do you really attend church?

I haven’t blogged in a few days as, well, I’ve been busy with other things.

I’ve been playing some quick catch-up with things religious and enjoyed a post by my friend Cathy Lynn Grossman at USA TODAY.

She writes about a new study from a U of Michigan researcher about church attendance.

I always wonder about church (and other house of worship) attendance figures. They often seem awfully high, don’t they? (Although my perceptions could be skewed by living in an area where a lot of people don’t attend a house of worship…)

According to Cathy’s blog, Philip Brenner, a University of Michigan research fellow with the Institute for Social Research, has found that “Americans exaggerate their church attendance more than anyone else.”


She then writes: “About 23% of Americans actually do attend church “regularly” (two or three times a month or more) according to time diaries (in which people account for 24 hours of recent activity). But 35% to 45% say they attend regularly when asked on surveys.”

Brenner doesn’t really think that people are lying about how often they go.

He tells Cathy: “When you ask people if they attended church, they hear that question pragmatically. They reflect on their identity as a religious person and they want to honestly report their identity as a religious person.

“So I think they are being honest with how they understand the question: ‘Are you the sort of person who attends religious services?’ is what they think they hear and they say yes.”

If you want to know more — I do — Brenner’s research will be published in Public Opinion Quarterly.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.