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Know Your Audience: Listening to the American Religious Landscape

By Liz Henning

A 2018 Pew Research Center study reveals that most adults in the United States sort themselves into conventional religious denominations: Catholic, Baptist, Jewish, etc.

From this baseline, the study found a new trend: beliefs and behaviors are common across many denominations. They unite people of different faiths, but divide people within the same religious affiliation. This creates a new and revealing typology of religion in America.

The new Religious Typology sorts Americans into three core groups based on:

• religious and spiritual beliefs,

• how actively faith is practiced,

• value placed on the religion,

• and other sources of meaning and fulfillment in their lives.

The Typology:

Highly Religious ​39%​​

Somewhat Religious​ 32%​​

Non-religious​​ 29%​

Within the three categories, there are seven types of believers:

Highly Religious ​39%

Sunday Stalwarts ​​(17%)

​​​​​ God and Country Believers​(12%)

​​​​​ Diversely Devout ​​(11%)

Somewhat Religious ​32%​

​Relaxed Religious ​​(17%)

​​​​​ Spiritually Awake ​​(15%)

Non-religious​​ 29%​

​Religious Resisters ​​(12%)

​​​​​ Solidly Secular ​​​(17%)

Among Christian faiths, self-identifying Catholics are most widely spread across the ranges. In fact, no more than 25% of Catholics fit the criteria for any single typology.

Building a good communication plan means understanding the motivations, core beliefs, and common habits of your members. If you think about your organization, you can probably identify your Sunday Stalwarts, your Relaxed Religious, and your Solidly Secular members.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change the ways in which parishes, schools, and ministries communicate. As your team builds a communication plan for the future, tailor your messages to resonate with each group.

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