Periodically, Barna zooms in from nationally representative data on the Church to focus specifically on U.S. cities, equipping pastors to lead better in their context with reporting on topics like habits of generosity, post-Christian environments, relationship status trends and more.
With other measures of church attendance and affiliation in flux, especially as leaders and congregants emerge from COVID-era church life, the infographics below focus on two key measures of personal faith practice—Bible-reading and prayer.
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Southern Cities Are Top-Ranking for Bible-Reading
At a national level, aggregated Barna data (collected between 2005 and 2021) show that about three in 10 U.S. adults reads the Bible at least once a week. City data taken from Barna’s annual tracking research reveals that the top-ranked city for Bible-reading—Monroe, LA—roughly doubles the national percentage of participation, with 64 percent of the city’s residents saying they read the Bible at least weekly. Other markets that report regular Bible-reading are in close proximity, with the top five being located in the South.
- Monroe, LA (64%)
- Montgomery, AL (61%)
- Tyler-Longview-Lufkin-Nacogdoche, TX (59%)
- Jackson, MS (58%)*
- Macon, GA (58%)*
*As Jackson, MS and Macon, GA are tied as the fourth most prayerful cities, at 58 percent each.
Monroe, Evansville, Augusta Among the Leading Cities for Weekly Prayer
Currently, Barna data show that the majority of Americans (64%) prays to God at least once every seven days, though this percentage has been dipping since 2012 (which saw a national average of 83%). Keep in mind, prayerful Americans are not only those who practice the Christian faith—people of various religious backgrounds, and even those who don’t adhere to a religion, pray to God. While the national rate of weekly prayer is high, the highest-ranked city—once again, Monroe, LA takes the lead—adds 30 percentage points to that number, with over nine in 10 residents (94%) saying they have prayed to God at least once in the past week. Ninety-one percent of these prayerful residents identify as Christian. Though the majority of the most prayerful cities in the U.S. is located in the South, one city—Evansville, IN—is located in the Midwest.
- Monroe, LA (94%)
- Evansville, IN (93%)
- Augusta, GA (91%)
- Tyler-Longview-Lufkin-Nacogdoche, TX (90%)*
- Montgomery, AL (90%)*
- Florence-Myrtle Beach, FL (90%)*
*As the Tyler-Longview-Lufkin-Nacogdoche, TX; Montgomery, AL and Florence-Myrtle Beach, FL are tied as the fourth most prayerful cities, at 90 percent each.
The data highlighted above offer a brief city-specific glimpse of the U.S. Church. Deeper exploration of the faith practices, flourishing and thriving of local churches is ongoing through the Barna Cities initiative, led in partnership with Gloo and available on Barna Access.
The Barna Cities initiative has already launched in four locations—Columbus, Kansas City, Dallas-Ft. Worth and South Florida—with fresh data, insights and key findings available for ministry leaders in these locations. Throughout 2021 and beyond, Barna and Gloo will continue to add new cities, helping church leaders stay in-the-know and effective in their communities.
Interested in learning more about Barna Cities?
- If you’re in one of the four cities where the initiative is taking place (Columbus, Kansas City, Dallas-Ft. Worth and South Florida) visit this site or login to Barna Access Plus to register and gain access to city-specific insights.
- Register for an upcoming city-specific forum (taking place June 9 and 10) for one of these four cities: Columbus, Kansas City, Dallas-Ft. Worth and South Florida.
About the Research
The data shown above is based on a representative sample of 49,835 interviews with U.S. adults, ages 18 or older. The interviews were conducted both by phone and online over the course of 15 years—from 2005 to 2021. The margin of error is +/- 0.4 at a 95 percent confidence interval.
The data in this study were analyzed by DMA. The label “DMA” stands for Designated Market Area and represents a unique geographic area that also serves as a commonly accepted media market as defined by The Neilsen Company. DMAs have been configured so that the entire U.S. is assigned to one, and only one, of 210 DMAs in the country and are based on the television viewing habits of the residents in each county. While there are 210 DMAs, this table is based on data for 131 markets and only lists data for the top 50 of the 131.
© Barna Group, 2021.
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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