Eau Claire (WQOW) - America is known as being a predominately Christian country, and statistically speaking, that's still the case; but, a recent study shows that the percentage of Christians is dropping at a fast rate.
According to the Pew Research Center, 70.6% of Americans identify with a Christian denomination. That's about 8% lower than it was only seven years ago. Mainline denominations, like First Lutheran Church of Eau Claire have seen the biggest drop.
“There has been a decline over the past several years. I would say that the hay-day for First Lutheran was in the 60s, early 70s when they were around 4000 members,” said Amy Odgren, Senior Pastor at First Lutheran Church.
First Lutheran Church currently has about 750 members. They are now considering combining their congregation with Our Savior Lutheran Church who has also seen a decline in attendance.
“I think we all need a sense of feeling like we belong and yet there are so many different ways that happens you know it happens in social media, in school. Church isn't the center of the community anymore,” said Odgren.
22.8% of the people surveyed fell under an unaffiliated category, some were atheists or agnostic, but the majority of the unaffiliated were listed as "nothing in particular". Many Millennials, born between 1990-1996 fit into this category.
“It's not uncommon for young people to spend 5-10 years away from church. What our experience here as been, when people start having families, and statistically we know that 50% of them return,” said Paul Berthiaume, Lead Pastor at Jacob's Well in Chippewa Falls.
“The rest of them are doing stuff, they're participating religiously, they believe in God. Who knows what they're actually doing because the pew people didn't ask that,” said Scott Lowe, Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at UW-Eau Claire.
One group of Christians that has not dropped significantly is Evangelicals, Jacob's Well of Chippewa Falls, is an example. The church started in 2001. They've grown about 5-10% each year. This year they've grown about 20%.
“This year for some reason we've had a lot of growth, real strong growth and we're not exactly sure why. We haven't done anything different we haven't tried to grow, there just seems to be a real strong spiritual interest,” said Berthiaume.
Full details of the report can be found on Pew Research Center's website.