In the past 10 years, the number of American adults who describe themselves as Christians has dropped from 77% to 65%, according to a recent survey by Pew Research. The group that continues to grow the most, at 23% of the population, are the religiously unaffiliated or the ‘nones’. A wider disparity exists between the number of Baby Boomers who consider themselves to be Christians (84%) and the number of Millennials (49%).
Parishes, such as St. Mark Catholic Church in Emporium, PA, are recognizing this crisis and, with the help of the Catholic Foundation, are encouraging families to find their spiritual home.
In August of 2018, St. Mark launched an ecumenical effort to encourage families to return to the church of their choice. Father Paul Siebert, pastor, says “We as a group are trying to address the low percentage of people who attend church and encourage all, especially the youth of our county, to return to at least one hour per week of religious activity. We know by our study that only about 25% of the people of Cameron County attend church on a regular basis. We are trying to evangelize to the people of our county and change that number to a much higher percentage.”
The local campaign was modelled after the success of a similar effort in Erie County, known as ‘Take Me to Worship.’ The campaign was based on a 2014 Youth Religiosity survey of 428 students. The results showed that, for students who participated in organized religion at least once a week: their grades were higher; the family communicated more; they were significantly less likely to exhibit behaviors that would lead to violence; and they were less likely to experience depression or consider suicide. Their results lead more than 100 religious organizations to participate in an awareness campaign.
The efforts in Cameron County began with St. Mark Catholic Church, which later partnered with its mission parish, St. James in Driftwood, PA, as well as First Presbyterian, Emmanuel Episcopal, First United Methodist, First Baptist, Christian and Missionary Alliance, and Faith Baptist, all of Emporium, PA. In the first 13 months, St. Mark launched their campaign with 400 ‘Take Me to Worship’ yard signs, newspaper articles and handouts at all places of worship, as well as the creation of an informational website.
With the addition of a $1,200 Faith Formation grant from the Catholic Foundation in 2019, this group hopes to grow their efforts with more signage as well as local advertisements through radio, newspapers and social media. Encouraged by their initial results, they seek to grow attendance of former and non-church goers by 10% per year. According to Father Siebert, “We just want everyone to be a part of a spiritual community and encompass the word and love of God.”
If you would like to donate to the Evangelization Endowment, at any amount, contact Lisa Louis at (814) 824-1237 or firstname.lastname@example.org.