During the ongoing pandemic, most U.S. churches have discovered ways to carry out onsite services, however, as COVID-19 cases rose again across the nation in January, the number of churches that gathered in person declined.
According to a new Lifeway Research center survey of U.S. protestant pastors, in-person attendance dropped by 11 percent from September 2020 through January 2021.
Only a few Pastors who are having on-site services report having attendance numbers close to those of pre-pandemic services. Approximately 31 percent of the pastors surveyed reported their January 2021 attendance was less than half their attendance in January 2020 before the national locked down.
Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research says, “Churches continue to evaluate when to meet in person based on local conditions and cases within their congregation. Even when a church determines it’s safe to meet, their individual members will return on their own timetable.”
More pastors have faced new challenges and the pandemic head-on with the recent COVID-19 spike compared to last summer. Among the pastors surveyed, three times as many now reported a COVID-19 diagnosis in their church, and six times as many pastors surveyed reported a church member dying from the virus.
According to Lifeway, churches with 200 or more members are most likely to have an individual die from COVID-19, whereas smaller congregations, less than 50, may not.
“The respect pastors in specific regions had last summer for the devastation of this pandemic has now spread throughout the nation,” said McConnell. “For a growing number, the loss of life has reached a dear saint or regular attendee in their own congregation.”
The report also showed results worthy of praise and thanksgiving. Despite the challenges and financial strains of the pandemic, 90 percent of the pastors reported opportunities as a church family to serve others and, in many cases, reach new people, while members within their church have helped each other acquire their basic needs.
Further, 88 percent of the churches involved in the survey had new (never seen before) people attending or connecting online since the start of the pandemic, and 25 percent of the churches reported leading someone to Jesus after sharing the gospel.
For more information and survey methodology, view the complete report.
Photo courtesy: Debby Hudson/Unsplash
Crystal A Dixon is contributing writer at ChristianHeadlines.com, Devotableapp.com. Visit her blog at crystaladixon.com