Beliefnet
Mark D. Roberts

Part 1 of series: Denominations, Toothpaste, and Toilet Paper
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A recent USA Today headline caught my eye: â??U.S. Protestants more loyal to toothpaste brand than church?â? Ouch! This isnâ??t something that a clergyman from a Protestant denomination wants to read in the morning paper. But, like it or not, I did read the USA Today story. And, like it or not, I did discover that American Protestants are more loyal to their toothpaste brand than to their denomination. Also to their toilet paper. Double ouch!
If youâ??ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I weigh in occasionally on the nature and condition of Christian denominations. For example:

Whatâ??s Good About Denominations?
Why Not Just Leave the PC(USA)?
The End of the PC(USA) Revisited

So, given my interest in denominational tidings, I thought chip in my two cents on the issue of denominations and toothpaste.
First, the facts. The USA Today story was based on a study done by Ellison Research of Phoenix, Arizona. From their website, it appears that Ellison Research is primarily a marketing research firm for business clients, with several non-profit clients as well. Ellison Research specializes in studies for Christian organizations, and claims familiarity with the Christian community.
The research on Christian denominations and toothpaste was published on January 12, 2009. It was based on a survey of 1007 American adults, including 471 regular churchgoers. A summary of findings can be found in a press release (PDF format).
Overall, Ellison Research found that 30% American churchgoers would consider only one denomination. This figure includes Roman Catholics, who are much more loyal than Protestants. 60% of Catholics would consider attending only a Catholic church. Meanwhile, only 16% of Protestants exhibit this kind of denominational loyalty, though 67% of Protestants have some sort of denominational preference.
What is perhaps even more surprising to me is that Protestants who attend non-denominational churches are much more committed to being non-denominational than Protestants who are allied with a denomination. Hereâ??s what Ellison Research found:

People who worship at a non-denominational congregation were asked the same question about their loyalty to attending a non-denominational church.  People who attend a non- denominational church are actually more loyal to remaining non-denominational than churchgoers in Protestant denominations are to staying within their own denomination.

In fact, 29% of non-denominational churchgoers would only consider a non-denominational church.
Ellison Research then asked churchgoers about their loyalty to other â??brandsâ? beside churches. As it turns out, Protestants are more loyal to their denomination than to their favored brands of fast food restaurants (3%), bottled water (7%), computers (9%), and soft drinks (14%). Yet denominational loyalty ranks below Protestant loyalty to brands of toothpaste (22%) and toilet paper (19%). (Photo: Yes, you can even get toilet paper that comes in a toothpaste-type tube. I wonder if that raises the level of brand loyalty.)
So, there you have, in the iconic words of Joe Friday, â??just the facts, maâ??am.â? Denominational loyalty is lower than toothpaste and toilet paper loyalty. So what does this mean? What should we think of this? Is it bad? Good? Neutral? Tomorrow Iâ??ll offer some thoughts on the implications of â??just the facts.â?

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