Most Worshipers OK With Segregated Sunday Morning


by Bob Smietana

diversity church graphSunday morning remains one of the most segregated hours in American life, with more than 8 in 10 congregations made up of one predominant racial group.

And most worshipers think their church is fine the way it is.

Two-thirds of American churchgoers (67 percent) say their church has done enough to become racially diverse.

And less than half think their church should become more diverse.

Those are among the findings of a study of church segregation by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. Researchers surveyed 994 churchgoers—who attend worship at least at holidays or more often—about race and the church. They also surveyed 1,000 Americans as well as 1,000 Protestant senior pastors.

Churchgoers, researchers found, are lukewarm about diversity. More than half (53 percent) disagree with the statement, “My church needs to become more ethnically diverse.” Four in 10 agree.

Researchers also found churchgoers who oppose more diversity do so with gusto. A third (33 percent) strongly disagree that their church needs to be more diverse. More than 4 in 10 (42 percent) felt strongly their church was doing enough.

Evangelicals (71 percent) are most likely to say their church is diverse enough, while Whites (37 percent) are least likely to say their church should become more diverse.

pastorsspeakAfrican Americans (51 percent) and Hispanic Americans (47 percent) were more likely to say their church needs to be more diverse.

“Surprisingly, most churchgoers are content with the ethnic status quo in their churches,” said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “In a world where our culture is increasingly diverse, and many pastors are talking about diversity, it appears most people are happy where they are—and with whom they are.”

“Yet, it’s hard for Christians to say they are united in Christ when they are congregating separately,” Stetzer said.

Here are other findings about Protestant pastors:

  • 86 percent of Protestant pastors have congregations with one predominant racial group
  • 84 percent of them have spoken with a friend from a different ethnic group within the last week
  • 63 percent say they’ve met with ministers from another ethnic group in the past month
  • 43 percent speak on the issue of racial reconciliation once a year or less
  • 72 percent say their church is personally involved in racial reconciliation
  • 90 say racial reconciliation is mandated by the gospel

When it comes to the views of Americans, LifeWay Research found:

  • 34 percent of Americans have regularly attended a house of worship where they were a minority
  • 22 percent of those regularly attending as a minority said their ethnicity hindered their involvement
  • 50 percent agree with the statement, “Churches in American are too segregated.” 
  • 82 percent believe diversity is good for the country
  • 74 percent say the country has made progress on race relations
  • 81 percent say there is still a long way to go

Read the rest of the story by Facts & Trends‘ Bob Smietana at LifeWay Research.

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