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Bars, not church, best place to meet friends
Kimberlee Hauss, Religion News Service
February 12, 2010
3 MIN READ TIME

Bars, not church, best place to meet friends

Bars, not church, best place to meet friends
Kimberlee Hauss, Religion News Service
February 12, 2010

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.

Group Publishing

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.”

Photo by pop catalin/stock.xchng

Bars, coffee shops and restaurants topped a recent survey of places to meet new friends. Churches lagged behind these hot spots but edged out Facebook in the survey.

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

quotient.

“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.