“About half of U.S. adults have looked for a new religious congregation at some point in their lives, most commonly because they have moved. And when they search for a new house of worship, a new Pew Research Center study shows, Americans look first and foremost for a place where they like the preaching and the tone set by the congregation’s leaders.”

“Fully 83% of Americans who have looked for a new place of worship say the quality of preaching played an important role in their choice of congregation,” Pew Research Center reports. “Nearly as many say it was important to feel welcomed by clergy and lay leaders, and about three-quarters say the style of worship services influenced their decision about which congregation to join. Location also factored prominently in many people’s choice of congregation, with seven-in-ten saying it was an important factor. Smaller numbers cite the quality of children’s programs, having friends or family in the congregation or the availability of volunteering opportunities as key to their decision.”

Churches can consider marketing their sermon styles to help potential members in their searches for new churches. The new AudienceSCAN survey reported 21% of Americans are members of churches/synagogues and other places of worship.

“The single most common reason people give for having looked for a new congregation is that they moved: Roughly one-third of adults say they have searched for a new place of worship because they relocated. By comparison, fewer people say they sought a new congregation because of a disagreement with clergy or other members at their previous house of worship (11%) or because they got married or divorced (11%). About one-in-five adults (19%) volunteered that they have looked for a new congregation for some other reason, including other problems with a previous church, changes in their own beliefs or for social or practical reasons.”

Churches could reach new-comers looking for new congregations through the mail. The new AudienceSCAN study found 67% of Church/Synagogue Members took action after receiving ads/coupons in their mail.

“Fully three-quarters of Catholics who have looked for a new church (76%) say location was an important factor in their choice of parish, reflecting the geographically based system by which Catholics typically associate with a local church.”

“Young adults are far more likely than older people to have searched online for information about a new congregation. Indeed, 59% of adults under 30 say they have incorporated online searches when looking for a new congregation, compared with just 12% of those ages 65 and older.”

Growing churches, and those struggling with declining membership, could try SEM to woo new members. 53% of Church/Synagogue Members took action based on sponsored search results (like on Google, Yahoo or Bing).

“Americans who have looked for a new congregation are evenly divided between those who say they considered switching religions or denominations when they searched for a new house of worship (48%) and those who considered congregations only in the denomination with which they already identified (49%).”

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.