Statistics of Spirituality; Pollster Urges Church to Use Data as Tool for Action

Article excerpt


George Barna says he is trying to be more than a man with all the right numbers.

Since 1984, he has gathered statistics about the state of Christianity in America through the Barna Research Group, which is one of the five divisions of his Ventura, Calif.-based Barna Group Ltd.

Although Mr. Barna has distributed oodles of statistics about specific demographics and their spiritual health, he says he has become frustrated that the institutional church hasn't used the information as a call to action.

"The previous strategy that we had is that we would be the information gatherer and interpreter for the church at large," Mr. Barna says. "We would deliver the information to leaders in the Christian community and expect them to run with it. What we found is that most church leaders didn't run with it. They quoted it, but didn't convert it into meaningful activity."

Among the trends he has delineated through his research - and reported in his new book "Revolution" - Mr. Barna found that in 2000, 70 percent of Americans experienced and expressed their faith through their local church, 5 percent through alternative faith-based communities, 5 percent through their families, and 20 percent through media, arts and culture.

By 2025, Mr. Barna predicts that 30 percent to 35 percent will experience and express their faith through the local church, with equal amounts looking to alternative faith-based communities and media, arts and culture. Five percent will still experience and express their faith through their families, he says.

"The church is radically changing," Mr. Barna says. "People aren't as interested in buildings and programs. They are interested in things that constitute value for their lives."

As a result, in 2003, Mr. Barna decided to restructure his business, to put to use the information he collected.

Apart from the research group, he added four divisions - BarnaBooks, a publishing company; the Josiah Corps, providing leadership development for young people; Transformation Church Network, which works with churches; and BarnaFilms.

Church Communication Network in Mountain View, Calif.; EMI Christian Music Group in Brentwood, Tenn.; FilmDisc in Spokane, Wash.;; Kingdom Inc. in Mansfield, Pa.; and Tyndale House Publishers Inc. in Carol Stream, Ill., are among Mr. Barna's partners.

In December, Mr. Barna will start a program through BarnaFilms called Barna Films Preview Night. Four times a year, he plans to offer previews of outstanding films similar to "Ben Hur," "Chariots of Fire" and "The Passion of the Christ."

The first preview night will be Dec. 8 and will feature Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media LLC's "The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe." The movie, based on the book by renowned Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, opens to the general public Dec. 9.

Mr. …