The following is a research paper and scientific survey I did for my industrial/organizational psychology graduate studies in one of the research and statistics classes at Liberty University. The results of the study were moderate but statistically significant. However, it should be noted that, because this was a smaller school project, the sample size is about 10 times smaller than what I would normally prefer for a subject this large. It was still interesting though! The two biggest takeaways from this study were that there does seem to be a moderate correlation between intrinsic spirituality and church attendance and that the survey question with the lowest average score was one regarding church transparency and questions answered regarding spirituality. There is a non-scientific follow-up survey I will link at the end that I was inspired to conduct because of the results of this survey. The sample size is much larger and the results are extremely telling. I encourage you to read that article as well. Thanks for reading!
There is a moderately significant relationship between intrinsic spirituality and church attendance. The author of this study created an eight-question survey using three elements. The first element was a demographic question regarding the age of each participant. The second element was a question concerning how many weeks each participant attended church in the average four-week month (virtually or in-person). The last element was the six-question Intrinsic Spirituality Scale by Hodge (2003). The survey was conducted through a Google Forms link posted on Christian groups on Facebook. There were 36 participants who completed the survey. A Pearson’s r correlation test determined a moderately significant relationship between the two variables. Future research should be conducted to determine if there are similar results when there is a larger sample size, when virtual and in-person attendance is separated, and when the survey is not taken online. The results of this study should be useful in future studies as well as current Christian evangelism.
What Correlation is There Between Intrinsic Spirituality and Church Attendance?
There are fewer congregants attending churches, synagogues, and mosques post-pandemic than there have been in years (Barna Group, 2020). While the pandemic likely plays a large role in the lack of attendance, spiritual individuals lacked consistency in their religious gatherings throughout the last few decades (Pew Research Center, 2021). There is a growing number of those who consider themselves spiritual but not religious (Willard & Norenzayan, 2017). The vague nature of religion in this post-modern age sometimes makes it challenging to measure spirituality because it is hard to define intrinsic and extrinsic spirituality in a culture that is exceedingly pluralistic concerning spirituality (Park, 2021). An individual may not ascribe to religion in the traditional sense of the word; however, spirituality may play a major role in that person’s life.
Many religious individuals gather in their faith communities to maintain a common fellowship regarding morality (Meagher, 2019). As Meagher suggests, spirituality is a collective experience, but it is also a personal experience (2019). Willard and Norenzayan note that feelings of purpose and meaning often translate into motivation that transcends the four walls of a religious building and enters into everyday life. That includes things like motivation to improve everyday life activities like job performance (Moon et al., 2018). Church attendance and community are important for many believers, and they can help encourage motivation and spirituality. However, in today’s pluralistic demographic, when it comes to spirituality, it is worth noting if there is a relationship between intrinsic spirituality and church attendance. This research was inspired by previous work and influenced by an interest in observing if church attendance increases, decreases, or is irrelevant to intrinsic spirituality. The purpose of this study is to determine if there is a significant relationship between spirituality and church attendance.
There was a sample size of 36 participants from various locations, religious backgrounds, and ages. Each participant was either from the author’s Facebook friends or from private spiritually-based Facebook groups of which the author is a primary member. The participants chose to anonymously take the survey through the Google Forms platform. All of the participants volunteered to take the survey within the first hour of the original post.
A survey was created that consisted of eight questions: one demographic question, one question regarding church attendance, and six questions concerning spiritual motivation and influence. The demographic question was a fill-in-the-blank question asking for the age of the participants. The question on church attendance asked each participant to use a scale to answer how often he or she attends a religious gathering each month, assuming each month had four opportunities to gather, and virtual attendance counted as legitimate attendance. The Spirituality and motivation questions were taken from the Intrinsic Spirituality Scale by Hodge (2003).
The participants clicked on a link on Facebook that took them to the Google Forms survey that the author created. There they found a disclosure and the directions. After reading the disclosure and directions, each participant took the survey and clicked the submit button.
The six Likert-based questions from Hodge (2003) had answers ranging from zero to 10. The lower the score, the less spirituality played a role in that particular question. The higher the score, the more spirituality played a role in the question. After each question was answered, the total numbers were added up for each question and divided by six. The mean score of each individual indicated if the participant was high or low in intrinsic spirituality.
The second variable was church attendance. Church attendance was defined by how often one attended their Sunday worship gathering, assuming there were four Sundays in a given month and that there were no holidays. Both virtual and in-person attendance counted. The scale was from zero to four. The numbers represented weeks attended.
The two variables were compared to see if there was a correlation between one’s intrinsic spirituality and one’s average worship attendance. The Pearson’s test and a scatterplot were used because both variables were scale, and the desire was to see if there was a correlation between the two variables.
The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a significant relationship between spirituality and church attendance. The sample size was 36 Facebook participants ranging from 17 to 71 years of age. They all considered themselves to be Christians. The degrees of freedom for the demographics were a mean age of 43.2 years of age, a median of 41 years of age, and a mode of 31 years of age.
As shown in Table 1, a Pearson’s r correlation revealed a moderately significant relationship between one’s intrinsic spirituality and the weeks one attends church worship services each month (virtually or in-person), r (34) = 0.406, p = 0.014 (two-tailed). The null hypothesis is rejected; 16.48% of the variation in intrinsic spirituality is accounted for by church attendance. Therefore, as shown in Figure 1, intrinsic spirituality tends to be higher for those who attend weekly worship services at their church.
Pearson’s R Correlation
Intrinsic Spirituality is Correlated to Weekly Church Attendance
Note. Mean intrinsic spirituality scores are presented here with a range from 0-10. Mean church attendance is shown with a range from 0-5. The participants (n = 36) reported a significant correlation between intrinsic spirituality and church attendance (p = 0.014).
The purpose of this study was to determine if there is a significant relationship between spirituality and church attendance. Recent research shows that the pluralistic understanding of what it means to be spiritual in an increasingly post-modern society makes it difficult to establish one’s intrinsic spirituality and how much said spirituality influences and motivates one’s life (Wixwat & Saucier, 2021). It is valuable to differentiate between those who are spiritual but not religious and those who are spiritual and also committed to a faith community.
A potential limitation in this study is the conscious and subconscious effect that the COVID-19 pandemic had and contuse to have on spiritually minded people. One of the primary variables in the research was church attendance. It should be noted that, while virtual attendance counted as weekly church attendance, people are still dealing with posttraumatic stress symptoms from the pandemic (Karatzias et al., 2020). Some have not come back to church gatherings (Pew Research Center, 2021) because of the PTSD, and it is likely that some do not wish to participate in online services either. If that is the case, that would limit the accuracy of the results because there might not be the same degree of correlation between intrinsic spirituality and church attendance. Another limitation is the online survey that was used. In-person surveys tend to be better for quality control and to avoid the likelihood of careless responding and inconsistency (Ward & Meade, 2017). Online surveys are convenient, but they can lack a degree of quality.
While the results of this study indicate a correlation between intrinsic spirituality and church attendance, it is interesting to study exceptions to that reality. For instance, some research suggested that the Christian community can provoke spiritual dryness if there is conflict and bullying in a church or if the community seems to be shrinking (Bussing et al., 2020). However, other studies show that attending church helps many Christians to grow in their spirituality (Francis et al., 2019). Virtual (technological) church attendance does not seem to be as effective as in-person attendance, but there needs to be more research regarding the relationship between intrinsic spirituality, in-person attendance, and virtual attendance (Bingaman, 2020).
As discussed earlier, there is a decline in church attendance, but not as much of a decline in spirituality. This study presents scientific evidence that shows that there are good reasons to trust that consistently attending a church gathering might increase the intrinsic spirituality of one who considers herself spiritual but uncommitted to a church community. Church organizations can use this research to help the spiritual wanderer reconnect with a committed church family. Future research should be done using larger sample sizes, offline surveys, and more specific questions regarding virtual and in-person attendance so that a more trustworthy conclusion can be collected regarding the correlation between church attendance and intrinsic spirituality.
About three-in-ten U.S. adults are now religiously unaffiliated. Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. (2021, December 14). Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.pewforum.org/2021/12/14/about-three-in-ten-u-s-adults-are-now-religiously-unaffiliated/
Bingaman, K. A. (2020). Religious and spiritual experience in the digital age: Unprecedented evolutionary forces. Pastoral Psychology, 69(4), 291–305. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11089-020-00895-5
Büssing, A., Beerenbrock, Y., Gerundt, M., & Berger, B. (2020). Triggers of spiritual dryness – results from qualitative interviews with religious brothers and sisters. Pastoral Psychology, 69(2), 99–117. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11089-020-00898-2
Francis, L. J., Foster, S., Lankshear, D. W., & Jones, I. (2019). What helps Christians grow? an exploratory study distinguishing among four distinctive pathways. Pastoral Psychology, 68(4), 379–392. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11089-019-00866-5
Hodge, D. R. (2003). The intrinsic spirituality scale. Journal of Social Service Research, 30(1), 41–61. https://doi.org/10.1300/j079v30n01_03
Karatzias, T., Shevlin, M., Murphy, J., McBride, O., Ben‐Ezra, M., Bentall, R. P., Vallières, F., & Hyland, P. (2020). Posttraumatic stress symptoms and associated comorbidity during the Covid‐19 pandemic in Ireland: A population‐based study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 33(4), 365–370. https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22565
Meagher, B. R. (2019). Moral representativeness and satisfaction with one’s religious community. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 29(1), 18–31. https://doi.org/10.1080/10508619.2018.1544447
Moon, T.-W., Youn, N., Hur, W.-M., & Kim, K.-M. (2018). Does employees’ spirituality enhance job performance? the mediating roles of intrinsic motivation and job crafting. Current Psychology, 39(5), 1618–1634. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-018-9864-0
Park, C. L. (2021). Intrinsic and extrinsic religious motivation: Retrospect and prospect. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 31(3), 213–222. https://doi.org/10.1080/10508619.2021.1916241
Signs of decline & hope among key metrics of faith. Barna Group. (2020). Retrieved February 14, 2022, from https://www.barna.com/research/changing-state-of-the-church/
Ward, M. K., & Meade, A. W. (2017). Applying social psychology to prevent careless responding during online surveys. Applied Psychology, 67(2), 231–263. https://doi.org/10.1111/apps.12118
Willard, A. K., & Norenzayan, A. (2017). “Spiritual but not religious”: Cognition, schizotypy, and conversion in alternative beliefs. Cognition, 165, 137–146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2017.05.018
Wixwat, M., & Saucier, G. (2021). Being spiritual but not religious. Current Opinion in Psychology, 40, 121–125. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2020.09.003
Disclosure: I am asking you to complete this survey as part of the requirements for my statistics project in a graduate-level psychology course. Your answers will remain completely anonymous. No personal information about you will be linked to this survey. Please do not put your name or any other identifying information on the survey. The results of this survey will be used only for educational purposes and will not be published or released to the public. You must be 15 years old or older in order to complete this survey.
Directions: Please answer every question and answer each question only once. In question 1, please type your age. In questions 2-7, circle the appropriate number only. In question 8, type your average monthly Sunday morning church attendance. Thank you for your participation!
- What is your age?
- In terms of the questions I have about life, my spirituality answers… No questions (0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10) Absolutely all my questions
- Growing spiritually is… Of no importance to me (0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10) More important than anything else in my life
- When I am faced with an important decision, my spirituality… Plays absolutely no role (0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10) Is always the overriding decision
- Spirituality is… Not part of my life (0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10) the master motive of my life, directing every other aspect of my life
- When I think of the things that help me to grow and mature as a person, my spirituality… Has no effect on my personal growth (0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10) Is absolutely the most important factor in my personal growth
- My spiritual beliefs affect… No aspect of my life (0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10) Absolutely every aspect of my life
- Assuming there are four Sundays in a given month and that none of them are on holidays, how many times a month do you attend Sunday morning worship services (virtual or in-person)?: (0 1 2 3 4)
ALSO SEE: Church Transparency Survey Results