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Sorting Christians and others into categories:
The faith segments used by the Barna Research Group

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The Barna Research Group is one of the five divisions within the Barna Group, Ltd. That division provides primary research, largely through telephone polls of random selections of American adults. They are arguably the most important polling agency in the field of religion and spirituality in the country. 1 They were founded in 1984. They offer a free weekly update of their latest research findings. You can subscribe to the report from their web site. 2

Barna Research has developed a unique set of criteria for sorting individuals into five faith segments. Because of their importance in the religious polling field, their definitions often used by others.

There is little standardization on the meanings of terms in the religious area. For example, in early 2006, Barna reported that only 9% of American adults met their definition of "Evangelical." Other organizations and individuals may well use a much broader definition of this term, and estimate a very different percentage of Evangelicals.

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Barna's five segments:

bullet Non-Evangelical Born again Christians: These are individuals who:
bullet Say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.
bullet That commitment is still important to them now.
bullet They have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.
bullet They believe that, because of their confession and acceptance, they will spend eternity in Heaven.
bullet However, they don't meet one of the Evangelical criteria listed below.
bullet Evangelicals are individuals who meet the born again criteria and seven additional beliefs as well:
bullet They consider their faith as very important.
bullet They have a responsibility to evangelize others
bullet Satan exists as a living entity.
bullet Salvation is attained through God's grace, not human effort or good works.
bullet Jesus Christ lead a sinless life while on earth.
bullet The Bible is accurate throughout
bullet God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnibeneficient, the creator of the universe who is still ruling it today.
bullet Notional  Christians are individuals who identify themselves as Christian, but do not meet the born again criteria. 3
bullet Members of other religions: Those who identify themselves with other than Christian faiths.
bullet Secularists: Individuals who do not identify themselves with any religions. These are often Atheist or Agnostic in religious belief.

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Distribution among the five segments:

Segment 2006-JAN
N.E. Born again 36%
Evangelical 9%
Notional Christians 36%
Other religions < 10%
Secularists < 10%

N = 1,003; margin of error ~+mn~3.2 percentage points

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Downloadable report:

Barna will have a downloadable report available on an after 2006-APR-07 called "State of the Church 2006." Cost of the download is $15.00 See:

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "About the Barna Group, Ltd.," at:
  2. The Barna web site is at
  3. We were stymied by the word "notional." We had to look up its meaning., a online dictionary, gave many definitions including: "Having descriptive value as distinguished from syntactic category," "not based on fact," "dubious," "being or of the nature of a notion or concept." etc.

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Copyright 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2006-MAR
Latest update: 2006-MAR
Author: B.A. Robinson

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