Who Travels Farther to Worship—New Worshipers or Long-Term Attendees?

How long are worshipers willing to travel to attend religious services? About half of worshipers (56%) can reach their congregation within 10 minutes, and nine in ten (88%) travel no more than 20 minutes to church.  One in ten travel even farther.

Truth or fiction? Recently I heard that long-term members often travel farther to their church than new people who began attending in the past several years. The “expert” said that long-term members might move to a new home that’s not as close to their church, but continue attending there. New worshipers, on the other hand, seek a church home that’s convenient and easy to get to. What’s the truth?

Truth: In fact this “expert” was wrong. More long-term worshipers than new attendees can get to their church in 10 minutes or less. On average, worshipers who began attending in the past five years travel farther to their church than those attending for more than five years.
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What does this mean? There are a couple of implications for congregational leaders:

  1. Involvement. It’s easier for worshipers to participate in congregational activities if they can get there quickly. Those who walk to church or travel a short distance can come back for mid-week activities without difficulty. The greater distances that new attendees travel to worship may contribute to their lower levels of involvement in church programs.
  2. Outreach and evangelism. If your congregation focuses on inviting primarily the people who live in the neighborhood around the church, expand your vision! Don’t confuse your community service area with your evangelistic outreach area. Many community ministries will seek to serve the needs of people in the vicinity where your church is located. But your evangelistic outreach should be much broader. Current worshipers should feel free to invite all of their friends, neighbors, and other people they know. Personal relationships, not geography, build churches.