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New Gallup poll shows church membership is down dramatically -- And we know why

Published Monday, Apr. 5th, 2021

Cover image: San Felipe de Neri Church, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Credit Jessica Levey

Fewer than half of all Americans belonged to a church in 2020, falling below the majority mark for the first time in the 80 year history of the Gallup poll. 


We think we know why.



For the first time in nearly a century, a majority of surveyed Americans said that they don’t belong to a church, or that they have no religious preference.


This trend away from church membership was documented in both men and women, and across all ages -- from Traditionalists and Boomers, to Gen Xers and Millennials. 

Line graph showing the change in church membership by religious affiliation found in Gallup poll 2020, showing decreases in all generations and ages, falling below majority mark

The poll showed that church membership fell below 50% in 2020,

for the first time ever, via Gallup



According to Gallup, who conducted the poll: 


“The decline in church membership is primarily a function of the increasing number of Americans who express no religious preference. Over the past two decades, the percentage of Americans who do not identify with any religion has grown from 8% in 1998-2000 to 13% in 2008-2010 and 21% over the past three years…


Since the turn of the century, there has been a near doubling in the percentage of traditionalists (from 4% to 7%), baby boomers (from 7% to 13%) and Gen Xers (11% to 20%) with no religious affiliation.”


2020 Gallup poll, line graph showing the change in percentage of US adults with no religious affiliation, which rose for all demographics

The number of adults with no religious affiliation rose for all demographics, via Gallup




These findings don’t surprise us. 

The decline has been steady and sharp over the past two decades, and we think we have some ideas about why this is happening. 


During the course of our eleven years as a non denominational, interfaith, inclusive church, we’ve heard from countless ministers who never felt comfortable being themselves in mainstream churches. 


Many say that they never thought they’d belong to a church at all! 




We’ve heard from female ministers who’ve been denied ordination within their own denomination because of their sex. 


We’ve heard from LGBTQ+ ministers who were told, by the church they grew up in, that there was no space at the pulpit for them. 


We’ve heard stories from wedding officiants who marry interracial couples, of the struggles those couples have in finding clergy who would solemnize their union.


We’ve heard from Neopagan and Pagan ministers, who have finally been able to offer their faith’s traditional rites with the help of AMM’s open-minded online ordination.


We’ve heard from ministers who feel a deep current of connection with others, but who are only comfortable calling themselves ‘spiritual,’ ‘humanist’, ‘atheist’, or ‘agnostic’, out of painful discomfort with the traditional labels of organized religion that have been used to oppress, colonize, and exclude people for centuries. 


And we’ve heard from countless individuals who felt drawn to the ministry for years, but who couldn’t afford the high financial cost of attending seminary, or find a church with a doctrine that ‘fit’. 




a collage of many AMM Ministers and wedding officiants performing marriage for couples of all faiths, races, and walks of life

Some of our wonderful AMM Ministers and wedding officiants!

(And the happy couples and families they helped to bring together.)

Top left: AMM Minister Bithja Gebruilien; Top right: AMM Minister Karan Sheth




We think these national numbers represent a growing spiritual empowerment in our country -- and an unwillingness to identify with organizations that demonize or deny individual values. 


As we become increasingly accepting, compassionate, loving, curious, and tolerant as a society, our spiritual institutions must follow suit or be left behind.


This is why AMM proudly identifies as a nondenominational and interfaith church! 


With our approach of complete acceptance, by welcoming people of all faiths (or no spiritual beliefs at all), and by making ordination free and accessible online, we’re redefining what it means to be a church. 


We believe that what unites us isn’t if we pray, or who we pray to, or what we believe happens to us after we die. We believe that what unites us, all of us, is our shared experience as human beings. 


This is why we offer online ordination to everyone who seeks it, provided they agree with our tenets of respect and dignity for all people. And it’s why we support marriage for all people, as a way of accessing the full protections and benefits of love and acceptance within our society. 


So while traditional church membership and affiliation has declined sharply over the past two decades, we believe that acceptance, compassion, love, and appreciation for our shared experiences are on the rise. 


And we think that’s a good thing -- whatever the numbers say! 


AMM Minister Angela B with a happy couple in an outdoor wedding ceremony

AMM Minister Angela B. of @coastalchicstudios (Instagram)



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