March 22, 2022
A new survey reveals that 51% of “spiritual seekers” would be willing to visit a United Methodist church online, and 44% would be willing to visit in person. In addition, the overall willingness to visit a UMC increased from 42% in 2019 to 47% in 2021.
United Methodist Communications’ marketing efforts on behalf of The United Methodist Church are aimed at paving the way for these seekers to connect with the denomination’s local churches.
“Among spiritual seekers, we’ve seen willingness to visit a United Methodist church increase from 17% in 2015 to its highest ranking at 47% in the 2021 survey. We have also seen a recent upswing in the favorable perception of the denomination. The indication is that our seeker-focused communications and advertising campaigns are effectively reaching our target audience,” said Poonam Patodia, Chief Marketing Officer for United Methodist Communications. “We hope that these efforts are yielding positive and life-changing results.”
A spiritual seeker is defined as one who considers themself spiritual, socially conscious and seeking meaning in their lives but who is not affiliated with a church. There are an estimated 36 million seekers in the U.S. between 25-49. The survey reports that 94% of seekers have heard of The United Methodist Church, and almost 40% have a favorable impression of it. The 2021 study also marks the first time online church visit data on seekers is available.
“This awareness, paired with the fact that more respondents than ever have reported seeking something spiritually in their lives, presents the denomination with an incredible opportunity to reach out to the seeker population,” adds Patodia. “The survey findings reinforce the importance of sharing invitational messages to connect with a United Methodist church and equipping local churches with resources for outreach.”
Seekers are more likely to attend a local United Methodist church when they receive a personal invitation (33%) and know how active the church is in helping their local community (29%). The study also found that prayer is their most popular spiritual activity. Nearly one-third reported praying daily, and over half said they pray at least once a week. (Downloadable highlight infographics are available in English and Spanish language options.)
The survey was conducted in September and October of 2021 by the Barna Group on behalf of United Methodist Communications, the global communications agency for the denomination. A nationally representative sample of U.S. adults was drawn from an online panel of racially diverse people aged 25-49 who meet the definition of seekers. The biennial study, which first launched in 2000, compares past study data when tracking results. It measures changes in perceptions of The United Methodist Church, assesses messaging and informs marketing and communications efforts.
Compared to 2019 findings, more respondents report wanting to contribute to the community’s common good, are on a quest for spiritual truth, seeking to develop spiritually and engaging at least weekly in spiritual practices. They also noted wanting help coping with increased emotional pain or frustration and the feeling that something is missing from their life.
“This survey is critical to our work on behalf of The United Methodist Church. Insights on seeker habits and motivators help us to craft content,” noted Jennifer Rodia, Chief Communications Officer. “We want to supply resources that encourage and inspire seekers to go deeper on their spiritual journey and we want to equip leaders and members to connect with their communities in ways that are authentic and life-changing.”
To learn more about the United Methodist Communications research team’s work and findings, visit ResourceUMC.org/Research.