Feb 7, 2024

Are Christians Too Busy for Discipleship Community?

Recent Barna data shows that interest in a lifestyle of discipleship is not in short supply. Yet two in five Christians (39%) are not currently engaged in discipleship at all. Is a perceived lack of time holding Christians back?

In this article, we look at research from Growing Together, a report produced in partnership with The Navigators, to discern who is making time for discipleship and how those efforts benefit their spiritual growth.

Growing Together

A three-part guide for following Jesus and bringing friends on the journey

Just 7% of Christians Say Lack of Time Deters Them from Discipleship
Our research for Growing Together has established the fact that 39 percent of all Christians are not engaged in discipleship at all. And just one-third of Christians (33%) is categorized by Barna as a disciplemaker, actively helping someone grow in faith and move closer to Christ. Overall, that leaves about two in five Christians lacking any kind of discipleship community.

What is holding Christians back?

It’s no secret our lives are often busy and distracted. So lack of time and competing daily priorities may seem like obvious obstacles to developing discipleship community. However, Christians don’t see lack of time as a huge barrier to their discipleship.

The infographic below highlights some of the key findings about time that emerged from this study. One that especially stands out—just 7 percent of Christians who aren’t yet in a discipleship relationship attribute this to the time commitment. (You can take a look at the top reasons Christians aren’t engaged in discipleship in this article.)

Of course, people still view their time as something valuable to steward or, if needed, scrounge. Further, people want time investments in discipleship to feel like a meaningful addition. One in three Christians who has interest in disciplemaking worries about how to keep things engaging for the long haul (33%) or how to set disciplemaking as a priority, considering all the other things they are juggling (32%).

Still, such concerns aren’t guaranteed to be barriers.

Consider this: Who do you think are some of the people most likely to struggle with finding time for Christian community because their pace of life is so busy?

The answer: Christians who are already in discipleship community—those both receiving and giving discipleship in their relationships. They are actively prioritizing this spiritual exchange in their busy schedules, which isn’t easy but, as the research has shown us, produces deep rewards. Thus, these disciples and disciplemakers are more likely than other Christians to know the struggle of prioritizing spiritual growth and friendship in their fast-paced lives—yet it doesn’t stop them.

This is a key lesson in realizing the calling of day-to-day discipleship: Those who experience discipleship community have the time or will make the time. Or perhaps even reimagine or divvy up that time! Barna’s findings suggest the decisive factor is not who has the hours in the day, but who is willing to creatively commit from the hours they do have to growing in their faith and becoming qualified or equipped to help others grow, too.

Growing Together

A three-part guide for following Jesus and bringing friends on the journey

About the Research

This quantitative study consisted of two online surveys.

First, an online survey was conducted among 2,511 adults who self-identify as Christian and live within the United States. The adults who completed this survey were randomly selected through online research panels. This survey was conducted from December 22, 2020 to January 18, 2021. The margin of error for the data is +/- 1.8 percent at the 95 percent confidence level, meaning Barna researchers are 95 percent confident that the true national numbers lie within this small margin of error.

Second, an online survey of 2,930 U.S. adults was conducted from June 1 to July 4, 2020. The margin of error for this data is +/- 1.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.

Photo by Annie Spratt from Unsplash.

© Barna Group, 2024.

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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