Some See Natural Beauty as Another Threat to Churches

Even Christians will often choose nature over church, Bruce Gourley says. (Creative Commons photo by Moyan Brenn)
Even Christians will often choose nature over church, Bruce Gourley says. (Creative Commons photo by Moyan Brenn)

A new study suggests a connection between low church attendance and scenic nature. The outdoors, it says, can satisfy spiritual needs the church attempts to provide.

The American church, it seems, just can’t catch a break.

The “nones” won’t come in, the “dones” are … well, done, and the rest of the membership is slowly but surely dying off. Attendance and tithing are taking big hits.

And now congregational leaders can add another potential challenge: the positive physical characteristics of the regions in which they live.

It was a punch delivered in an Aug. 17 Washington Post blog suggesting that inspiring scenery and climate are factors negatively impacting worship attendance.

It led one pastor to jokingly throw his hands up in surrender.

“We’re already down and now you want to kick us?” said Alan Rudnick, an American Baptist minister and executive pastor at DeWitt Community Church in DeWitt, N.Y.

Rudnick posted the blog on his Facebook page with the comment, “this sorta makes sense.”

“It just adds to the growing list … people have for not coming to church,” he told Baptist News Global.

‘Why go?’

The blog by Christopher Ingraham features an interactive map that provides a “natural amenities” index for every American county.

Based on earlier rankings created by the federal government, it considers climate, topography and water area preferred by most people, Ingraham said.

“Those qualities, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, include mild, sunny winters, temperate summers, low humidity, topographic variation, and access to a body of water,” he wrote.

The map provides “natural aspects of attractiveness” for every American county, with communities in California, Colorado and most other Western communities scoring highest. Parts of Texas, most of Florida and a smattering of Southeastern counties do pretty well, also.

The least desirable counties, according to the map, are located in the Midwest with swaths also in the Southeast and Northeast.

It’s at the end of the blog that Ingraham cites a recent Baylor University study suggesting “a relationship between natural beauty and religious attendance.”

In other words, he writes, “Why go to church if you can hit the beach or the trailhead?”

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Baptist News Global
Jeff Brumley

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