A recent study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) has found that most Americans who describe themselves as "spiritual but not religious" still identify with a religious tradition.
The findings, released on Monday, indicated that only 30 percent of self-identified "spiritual but religious" people are actually religiously unaffiliated.
PRRI found that 18 percent are white mainline Protestants and another 18 percent are Catholics. Ten percent are non-white Protestant and five percent are white evangelical Protestant.
The results also found that 13 percent belong to non-Christian religious traditions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism or Judaism.
Mark Tidsworth, a South Carolina-based church and leadership consultant, said that the results should serve as encouragement for churches that have long struggled with declining memberships, tithing and relevance.
"The spiritual but not religious segment of the population in the United States may be growing, yet they are still largely participating in our churches," Tidsworth, who serves as the president of Pinnacle Leadership Associates, told Baptist News Global.
"So those in our congregations who trend toward spirituality over religiosity largely do not flee for the exits," he added.
The polling firm further noted that 40 percent of Americans who identify as spiritual but not religious are liberal, compared to 24 percent of the general population.
For the study, PRRI asked respondents questions on eight statements about spirituality and placed them into the four categories of "spiritual but not religious," "spiritual and religious," "not spiritual but religious," and "neither spiritual nor religious."
The results revealed that 29 percent of Americans are both spiritual and religious, 18 percent are spiritual but not religious, 22 percent are not spiritual but religions and 31 percent are neither spiritual nor religious.
The study also indicated that only 29 percent of religiously unaffiliated Americans can be categorized as spiritual but not religious. Sixty-five percent of the religiously unaffiliated are neither spiritual nor religious, while five percent are not spiritual but religious. Only one percent identify themselves as both spiritual and religious.
Tidsworth argued that the PRRI study reinforces the practicality of small-group ministries, and also suggests that less emphasis should be put on dogma and theology on sermons.
"Focus on the experiential aspects of our faith over doctrinal stances in preaching and teaching. Most of the spiritual but not religious are involved in their churches (or other faith traditions), not abandoning the church. Even so, they are not so interested in the fine points of our theology or doctrinal concerns," he contended.