Americans say Starbucks,
Chili’s and bars are better places than church to meet new friends, according
to a new survey.
Restaurants, bars or pubs
attract 18 percent of Americans as a place to meet people, while churches draw
16 percent and online venues like Facebook pull 11 percent, said the survey
released in late January by Group Publishing, a nondenominational Protestant
publishing house in Colorado.
The online survey polled
nearly 800 respondents, more than three-quarters of whom identified themselves
as Christians, and has a plus or minus error rate of 4 percentage points.
commissioned the survey in order to “determine where the church ranks as
compared to other
‘around-town’ venues when measuring the places, people and
attributes that define friendly to Americans today.”
Why would people choose a
restaurant or bar over church? Chris Howley, director of research of Group
Publishing, said many people feel “compelled” to be in church. They go as a
sense of obligation and therefore have no spiritual motivation for attending.
The social atmosphere of a pub or restaurant draws people in without the
feeling of obligation, he said.
The church may not be
America’s favorite spot to meet new people, but it is one of the friendliest.
Americans said church is the second-friendliest place in town, behind,
unsurprisingly, home. Restaurants and bars came in third, followed by grocery
stores and coffee shops.
While the results did not
conclude churches are unfriendly, Howley said the results could have been
better. In particular, pastors could be friendlier. A list of the friendliest
people in town revealed a close friend at the top, followed by a family member,
neighbor, co-worker, minister or religious leader.
The ‘friendly index’ of
pastors was not much higher than hairstylists and store clerks, said Jon
Vaughan, Group Publishing’s corporate marketing director.
Social media, the third
favorite place to meet new people, may a new way to boost the friendly
“We don’t think the church should see (social media) as a threat at
all, but they should embrace the Internet. It’s a way to engage people and
bring people in,” Howley said.
Vaughan concurs. “Since the
Internet has become an integral element of our daily lives, pastors and church
leaders must be more creative in facilitating social networking — both
face-to-face and through the Web,” Vaughan said.
Once the data came in, Group Publishing examined
the factors making a place “friendly” and offered insight to churches on how to
create a more welcoming atmosphere. Among top factors constituting a friendly
place were “making me feel like I belong” and “making me feel comfortable,”
said the survey.