Insights from the 2021 Australian Community Survey
We know that different churches attract people of different ages.
As part of our research into Australian community trends, we were interested to see how age influences Australians’ attendance at religious services. Interestingly, results show the highest proportion of any age group attending religious services frequently was found in young people.
(Video excerpt from Webinar "What Australians really think about Jesus and the Church today.")
While around two in ten Australians (22%) say they attend religious services at least monthly, would it surprise you to know that greater proportions of younger people say they attend frequently, compared to older age groups?
In fact, one in 3 young adults aged 18 to 34 (32%) say they attend religious services at least once a month, according to 2021 Australian Community Survey (2021 ACS), by NCLS Research. This makes young people the most frequent attenders at religious services.
Older age groups have a lower proportion attending monthly, with those aged 65 and over, and those aged 35 to 49, both at 19%. The lowest rate of attendance is in the 50 to 64 age bracket with only 11%, or around one in ten, attending services at least monthly.
When it comes to attending a religious service weekly, both the 18 to 34 year old age group and the 65+ age group have similar proportions attending. Both age groups have 17% claiming to attend weekly or more often.
However, young adults, the survey revealed, are much more likely to attend one to three times a month, at a rate of 15%, compared with only 2% for the 65+ age group.
Also of interest, young people are the most common age group to have tried church and decided not to continue attending. In the 2021 ACS we asked Australians "Within the last five years, have you ever gone to a Christian church and been open to getting involved, but decided not to get involved?"
Overall, two in 10 Australians may have tried to get involved in church in the past five years. However that number is even higher for young people, with results showing three in ten 18 to 34 year olds may have tried.
What then to conclude?
Even though young adults may no longer have social or cultural ties to particular religious denominations, they still rate the highest in terms of attending religious services at least once a month.
As well, higher proportions of young people aged 18 to 34 have tried to get involved in church but decided not to, in the past five years. So, why are they not finding a place in church life that is nurtured and sustained?
Perhaps it’s time to reflect on ways that churches can meaningfully engage young people even better and ensure they aren't missing an opportunity to include this age bracket in their community of faith.
2021 Australian Community Survey, by NCLS Research
Tracking Australians' social attitudes, spirituality, religion and wellbeing