The Story:  A new study finds that fewer than half of Americans who attend church are aware that their place of worship offers any sort of official membership.

The Background: Grey Matter Research surveyed American adults who attend a local church or place of worship once a month or more. The study asked people whether their place of worship offers “any kind of official membership in the organization, or not.”  Among all worship-goers, 48% say such official membership is offered, 33% believe it is not, and 19% are not sure.

According to the study, while some denominations and individual congregations have no official form of membership, most of the largest religious bodies do.  All of the ten largest denominations in the U.S.—-as measured by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies—-measure some form of official membership: Roman Catholic Church, Southern Baptist Convention, United Methodist Church, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Assemblies of God, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, Episcopal Church, and National Baptist Convention USA.

The Takeaways: Some of the more interesting findings from the study include:

• Among those in a Protestant church, 56% say their church offers official membership.  Only a third of Catholics believe this about their church.

• Among people who attend one of the top ten largest denominations, just 44% say their church offers official membership, while 39% believe it does not, and 17% are unsure.

• The perception that their place of worship offers membership is much more common among older Americans (59%, compared to 45% among people under age 65).

• Evangelicals are also particularly likely to believe their church offers official membership (72%, compared to 44% among all other worship-goers).

• Among people who say official membership is available to them, 78% claim to be members, while 21% attend, but have never become members, and 1% are unsure of their own status.

• 37% of all regular worship-goers in the U.S. believe they are official members of the place of worship they attend, 10% believe they attend but are not members, 1% are unsure.