Peek inside almost any church. Women will usually outnumber men, and usually by a long shot.
It's no wonder that a recent survey by the Barna Group saying women's attendance is declining has some church leaders concerned.
Commenting on the results, George Barna, the group's leader, said, "For years, many church leaders have understood that 'as go women, so goes the American church.'"
Among the findings from the survey that covered 1991 to 2011 were:
■ Church attendance among women dropped by 11 percentage points, to 44 percent of the U.S. population. This means a majority of women no longer attend church services during a typical week.
■ Bible-reading among women (other than during services) has declined from 50 percent in 1991 to 40 percent today.
■ Volunteering by women at churches dropped by 9 percent, and Sunday School involvement was down by 7 percent.
■ The only increasing behavior covered in the survey was the number of women who don't attend church: 17 percent.
■ The only stable religious behavior for the time period was the percentage of women who attend a church of 600 or more, which remained at 16 percent.
"While sobering, the findings of this survey are not surprising, and I would agree with Barna's appraisal," said the Rev. Paul Rock, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Kansas City, Mo.
"Since women still tend to define many family traditions, a drop-off in women means a drop-off in men and children as well. So this is a significant change in American culture that most churches have not adapted to well.
"I don't think God is worried, but I do think God is waiting for churches to wake up and respond to the reality of women's lives today."
Most women have busy careers that they balance with caring for their families, among other things. As for involvement, working women are not going to be able to show up at a daytime book club meeting, and few can make a three-hour meeting on Saturday, he said.
Molly T. Marshall, president of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Shawnee, Kan., also was not surprised by the survey results. It is a serious issue, she said, but there are reasons for women being less involved in congregational life.
First, women are more engaged in the work force, so they have less time to volunteer.
Second, women are no longer content to see male clerical figures as the only spiritual authorities in the life of the church, she said. Progressive women see "the hyper masculinization of God as problematic; the language used for God functions to elevate men over women."
Women who are educated and have an understanding of equality of the genders "are wearied by the divide between their life in society and their life in the church," especially those in the conservative tradition, Marshall said.
Finally, women are particularly sensitive to the issues of sexual abuse by male clergy, Protestant and Catholic, she said.
The Barna study also found changes in women's core beliefs. For example:
Women today are 6 percent less likely to say their religion is very important to them than they were in 1991; even so, 63 percent still hold their faith in high regard.
The belief that the Bible is accurate in all of its principles has declined by 7 percentage points, to 42 percent.
Women who say that God is the "all-knowing, all- powerful and perfect Creator of the universe who still rules the world today" dropped from 80 percent in 1991 to 70 percent in 2011.
Barna said that while tens of millions of Americans seem to be wrestling with their faith — what to believe and how to experience and express it — women have been more radically redefining their faith than men in the past two decades.
"The frightening reality for churches is that the people they have relied upon as the backbone of the church can no longer be assumed to be available and willing when needed, as they were in days past," he wrote on his Web site.
The Rev. Robert K. Martin, a church leadership and practical theology professor at St. Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, questioned Barna and called it a conservative evangelical group.
The Barna Group, based in Ventura, Calif., describes itself as a private, non- partisan, for-profit organization that researches spiritual developments. It said data were collected each year from 1,000 or more randomly selected adults.
Martin said the longevity of the study lent it validity, but he questioned whether it was as wide and diverse as possible.