Reasons for attending church services

Reasons why churchgoers attend worship services differ by denomination

Strong motivation to 'worship and experience God' is seen in a majority of church attenders, with 62% of churchgoers listing this as the main reason they attended church services.   Also listed amongst the top reasons were 'to share in Holy Communion' as well as 'to be encouraged and inspired'.

Some variation can be seen when comparing attenders by their denominational type.

In the 2016 NCLS, churchgoers in Australia were asked to select their main reason for attending church services, out of a list of options. The majority of attenders sampled reported that they attend services to worship and experience the presence of God.

Indeed, results reveal that the most common reason given for attending church services was ‘to worship or experience God’ with some 62% of all churchgoers selecting this response.

Other reasons were selected at much lower levels and varied significantly across different faith traditions.

Main reasons given for attending church service by denomination

  Catholic
%
Protestant
%
  • To worship and experience God
50 73
  • To share Holy Communion/Eucharist/Lord's Supper
42 15
  • I need a time of prayer or reflection
19 8
  • It is my duty
11 4
  • To feel a sense of community
10 19
  • For encouragement and inspiration
9 33
  • To learn more about faith
8 17
  • To make sure my children are exposed to the faith
7 9
  • It is wrong to miss worship without good reason
7 3
  • I like to keep the family together
5 3
  • Out of habit
5 3
  • Other
4 3

Source: 2016 NCLS Attender Survey (n = 1,415).
N.B. Percentages will not add up to 100% as respondents could choose more than one option.

 

Catholic churchgoers were much more likely to nominate the Eucharist as their key reason for attendance

The Eucharist (Holy Communion) is a core reason for Catholic churchgoers to attend worship services. Some 42% of Catholic attenders sampled selected ‘To share in Holy Communion/ Eucharist/ Lord’s Supper’ as the main reason for their attendance. Whereas only 15% of Protestant churchgoers stated ‘To share in Holy Communion/ Eucharist/ Lord’s Supper’ was their main reason for attending services.

Prayer and reflection is important for Catholic churchgoers

Almost one in five (19%) of Catholic churchgoers sampled nominated ‘I need a time of prayer or reflection’ as their main reason for attending church worship services. Many Catholic churchgoers noted a sense of obligation to attend church worship services, with just over one in ten (11%) of Catholic churchgoers selecting ‘It is my duty’ as their primary reason for attendance. Protestant churchgoers were significantly less likely to attend out of a sense of duty, with just 4% selecting ‘It is my duty’ as their main reason for attending services.

Protestant churchgoers give precedence to community, encouragement and faith development 

A third (33%) of Protestant and Anglican churchgoers reported that their main reason for attending church services was ‘for encouragement and inspiration’. Other popular choices for Protestant churchgoers were ‘To learn more about the faith’ (17%) and ‘To feel a sense of community’ (19%).

Just 3% of Protestant churchgoers stated ‘Out of habit’ as their core reason for attending church worship services.

 

Our research shows that regardless of faith tradition most churchgoers claimed their main reason to attend church services is to worship and experience God. The tradition of Christians gathering together for worship appears strong. The practice of sharing Holy Communion / Eucharist; as well as meeting together regularly to encourage one another in the faith; also appear to be active reasons why people of Christian faith are attending worship.

Authors:
Kathy Jacka, Ruth Powell
Data Sources:

Data source: Powell, R. Sterland, S. Pepper, M. and Hancock, N. (2016). 2016 NCLS Attender Survey [Data file]. Sydney: NCLS Research.

Related Articles

Australians attending church

How many Australians attend church in an average week?

Religious service attendance

How many Australians attend church or other religious services?

Changes in church attendance in Australia

Overall church decline is offset by signs of growth in some churches