I would have thought maybe music.
But at this time of Passover and Easter, Gallup just did a new poll and found that the most appealing part of attending church for a large majority of Americans is something else entirely. It makes sense when you think about it. But music, in fact, is way down the list.
The overwhelmingly most important reason that people attend church is for the sermon and related talks to learn more about the scriptures and how religion connects to their own life. Three out of four cite those reasons.
There are some interesting twists buried in the survey that could help churches and their leaders stem the slide in reported attendance in recent times. And, heads-up to doctors and church-skippers, previous Gallup studies have found that regular churchgoers tend to be healthier and more satisfied in life than others.
Following in the new Gallup Poll are spiritual programs aimed at teenagers and children (64%) and community outreach and opportunities to volunteer (59%).
Next comes dynamic religious leaders who are informative, inspiring and interesting (54%), then church social activities that facilitate getting to know members of the community (49%). Music in the form of choir, bands, cantors and other spiritual music is actually at the bottom of the list (38%).
The poll results come from a nationally representative survey from March 9-29 of people who attend a church, synagogue or mosque at least once a month.
While Catholics and Protestants attach roughly the same level of importance to the social and ancillary aspects of church membership, they differ when it comes to what’s most important. Sermons on scripture and connections to daily life (and the quality of music) are far more important to Protestants (83% and 80%, respectively) than they are to Catholics (62% and 67%).
As for the 35% who are lapsed churchgoers (those who used to attend at least once a month but no longer do), there is no overwhelming one reason why they don’t now.
Reasons given ranged from preferring to worship on their own (44%) and a dislike of organized religion (36%) to the all-purpose lack of time (19%), dislike of being solicited for money so often (16%) and poor health (10%). Nine percent said they just don’t feel welcome when they do attend a service.