House Church Talk - Small group activity increases in USA

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Thu Mar 11 15:54:12 EST 2004

    This just out:

The Barna Group has been conducting an annual tracking survey of the 
nation¹s religious behavior for two decades. This year¹s study, completed 
in mid-February, shows that there was no change over the past decade in 
four of the behaviors measured, but significant change related to three 

One change discovered related to Bible reading, which climbed to 44% of 
adults reading from the Bible during the past week (other than while at 
church), up from 37% in 1994 and 36% in 1999. Bible reading jumped most 
noticeably among Protestants (up from 47% in 1994 to 59% in 2004) and 
residents of the west coast states (California, Oregon, and Washington ­ 
rising from 29% a decade ago to 44% today).

Another shift was in participation in small groups that meet during the 
week for the purpose of prayer, Bible study or spiritual fellowship, 
excluding Sunday school or other church classes. In 1994, just 12% of 
adults engaged in such a meeting during the previous week; currently, 20% 
of adults do so. The biggest increase was evident among men (a 100% leap, 
to 18% of all men); people 58 or older (more than double, from 14% to 
29%); Protestants (increasing from 17% to 28%); and residents of the West 
(up from 11% to 26%).


One interesting facet related to the behaviors growing in popularity, 
according to Barna, was their non-church nature. ³Notice that the growth 
activities ­ Bible reading, prayer, small groups ­ are those that do not 
take place at a church. The church-oriented endeavors ­ attending 
services, volunteering in church programs, Sunday school participation ­ 
showed no movement. This may be an early warning sign that we are 
entering a new era of spiritual experience ­ one that is more tribal or 
individualized than congregational in nature.²

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