Religious Change and Stability: Seasonality in Church Attendance from the 1940s to the 2000s


Paul J. Olson, Department of Sociology, Briar Cliff University, 3303 Rebecca Street, Sioux City, IA 51104. E-mail:


Using attendance data from a declining Episcopal church and a growing Lutheran church in a medium-sized midwestern city, we explore the issue of seasonality in church attendance from the 1940s to the late 2000s. Our central concern is whether month-to-month variation in church attendance has remained the same or changed over the period of time under consideration. We find remarkable consistency in the overall month-to-month attendance pattern over the course of the past seven decades but less variation in attendance from month to month in more recent decades in both churches. We argue that the findings demonstrate the presence of a “committed core” of church members who attend regularly and the departure of nominal members who have swelled the ranks of the “nones” in recent decades.