Churches More Likely to Be Multicultural: NCLS

Churches More Likely to Be Multicultural: NCLS

Compared to all Australians, people who go to church are more likely to be a first- or second-generation migrant, female and tertiary-educated, National Church Life Survey results have found.

According to the results, more than a third of Australian church attenders (36%) were born overseas. Of those born overseas, some 27% of churchgoers were born in a non-English speaking country, which is higher than in the general Australian population (22%).

These latest figures demonstrate that Australian churches are culturally diverse and can be a significant place of welcome and social inclusion for migrants.

NCLS Research Director, Dr Ruth Powell said this multicultural mix in Australian churches has increased over time, despite churches with a non-English speaking background being under-represented in the national survey. “The proportion of attenders born overseas was 28% in 2006, and ten years later it was up to 36% in 2016″ she said. “Compared to other nations, we have a very high proportion of multicultural churches.”

More women than men attend local churches: six in ten church attenders are female. As in previous waves of the NCLS, this is higher than in Australian society, where females represent 51% of the population.

“The fact that women continue to be more religious than men confirms a long-term pattern, which has been found in all religions and across the world,” Dr Powell said.

“There are a lot of theories about why this is the case. While there are lots of factors involved, the evidence points to social and cultural factors having an important role.”

Those in the pews are more educated than ever before. Some 37 % of churchgoers aged 15 and older held a university degree in 2016, up from 27% in 2006. The proportion of tertiary educated churchgoers continued to be higher than the Australian population where 22% of those aged 15 and older held a university degree in 2016.

According to the NCLS, implications for churches ministries include the challenge of catering for highly educated younger Christians, as well as older attenders with lower levels of formal schooling.

Jonathan Foye is Insights’ editor

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