Church attendance dwindling in Germany


Central Europe


Interior view shows empty rows of benches in the landmark Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) in the center of Munich, southern Germany. Photo AFP, Christof Stache

Many German church attendees are leaving or have already considered it.

According to a Bertelsmann Foundation study, church attendance is declining at a faster rate than ever before, particularly in younger generations. The Christliches Medienmagazin PRO article also reported that approximately 41 percent of teens and young adults (ages 16-24) said they considered leaving the church. In the 29-39 age group, at least one in three wanted to discontinue their attendance. Those who were least likely to leave were seniors (70 and over) where the rate remains at 5 percent. The 4363-participant survey also revealed that at least 17 percent go to church at least once month, and an equal number does not attend at all.

Yasemin El-Menouar, who is the Foundation’s top researcher at their Religion Monitor project, says that “individualisation” remains a top cause for the lack of solidarity within today’s churches. Despite pervasive forces of secularisation, many participants still reported a belief in God. According to Bertelsmann study findings from Jesus.de, more “private forms of spirituality” are taking over the more “traditional ecclesiastical forms of religiosity” El-Menouar said in the article. Additionally, over 90 percent of those who thought about leaving said that one can still be a Christian without going to church. At the same time, the role of religion holds the “least importance” in life today. Politics, friendship, family, work, and leisure time all held a higher priority.

The results also revealed that 80 percent were leaving the church because of church scandals and a lack of trust.

Doris Bauer, a 53-year old social worker from Cologne, said to DW that she left her Catholic parish last year. Her church’s handling of sex abuse cases was a main factor in her exit. The Archdiocese of Cologne, particularly its archbishop cardinal, Rainer Maria Woelki, has been criticised over how he handled the abuse cases.

“But church leaders did not give any indication that they intended to take responsibility, or that they intended to draw conclusions and implement any changes,” she said.

Bauer believes that the church in its present-day form is now obsolete. “The church sells itself as a moral authority. But it does not live by its own standards and values.”

Jesus.de also published results from the German Bishops’ Conference and the Evangelical Church in Germany. As of 2021, less than half were “Catholic or Evangelical for the first time.” The country’s Catholics currently make up 26 percent of the total population and almost 24 percent still claim a Protestant affiliation.



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