10 Reasons people choose and remain in churches

Rev! Magazine is a great magazine.  It speaks of trends and practices that impact today and tomorrow’s church. Recently, they compiled a list of common reasons why people choose churches. I had never seen a list compiled quite so succinctly. Here they are…in no particular order.

1 Tradition (denominational history, doctrinal distinctions)
As the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. According
to most studies on the topic, a large number of people return to their
childhood roots as parents, whether charismatic, liturgical, or
nondenominational. Commitment to a specific denomination and its
traditions is common.

2 Proximity (physical distance and familiarity)
Most will not travel more than 20 minutes away from their homes but
will drive up to 10 minutes more if it’s in the direction of their
normal commute. Familiarity of the path helps, but it also limits where
a person will attend. High fuel prices, available transportation,
weather, and road conditions can reduce travel distance as well.

3 Demographics (age, life stage)— Finding people
like oneself in a faith community, in terms of age and life stage, is
significant. Collegians, young married couples, young families,
families with teenagers, empty nesters, and retirees all have more in
common with each other than age alone. Typically, a church member is
within five to 10 years of the lead pastor’s age, although a popular
staff member can skew this norm.

4 Socio-economic (education, income)—People often
relate more to each other because of a shared socioeconomic class than
because of any other similar factor, including age and ethnicity.
Formal education and pay scale usually equate to lifestyle, providing
things to talk about and common communication styles in general. Plus,
socio-economic groups typically live in proximity to each other.

5 Music/worship style (the arts and psychographics)
Hymns, choruses, charismatic expression, praise and worship, acoustic,
pipe organ, choir, worship team, liturgy, performance, or
participative… music and arts pique our emotions and thus are the most
controversial, causing people to select or avoid a church.

6 Preaching delivery/pastoral personality— Some
people will endure music they don’t like if they like the preaching, so
long as preaching is one of their interest angles. Consequently,
"average" preachers have grown huge congregations while some dynamic
communicators lead very small ones. Related to preaching is the
pastor’s personality, which can attract or detract people from a church.

7 Ethnicity/culture—The multiethnic congregation is
a passionate and mostly unrealized goal of many churches. For the most
part, people enjoy the cultural norms, language, color, dialect,
traditions, and history of their own "tribes." While first, second, and
third generations differ from each other, the closer to the country of
origin, the more people choose to value this interest angle.

8 Community/friends—People will endure disdain for
various aspects of a church, so long as they maintain good friendships
in church. Perhaps more than any single factor, this is the glue that
causes people to stick to and feel fulfilled in a church, whether it’s
growing or shrinking. Many people accept lower quality programs and
services when they discover close community among friends.

9 Mission/vision—Churches that develop a strong
mission vision tend to attract people who share that interest angle,
whether it be for overseas missions, caring for the homeless,
evangelism, or other outreach motivations.

10 Youth/kids—When life passage includes children
at home, finding a church that’s liked by the kids and meets their
spiritual needs becomes significant.

I know from experience that people choose churches for these and a host of other reasons. Are there reasons that aren’t on here? If so, what are they? I’d also be curious to know which of these listed will dominate the next 10 years. Are any of them by nature unhealthy spiritually?

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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