51 Percent of Pastors Expect Attendance to Decline Post-Pandemic, Barna Poll Shows

Michael Foust | ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor | Tuesday, September 22, 2020
An empty church, 90 percent of protestant churches didn't meet in April

51 Percent of Pastors Expect Attendance to Decline Post-Pandemic, Barna Poll Shows


A slight majority of pastors say they believe their congregation will experience a decline in attendance once the COVID-19 pandemic crisis is over, according to a new Barna survey.

The poll, released Monday, showed a record-high 51 percent of senior pastors and executive pastors believe their church attendance will decline after the pandemic – 46 percent believing it will decline “slightly” and 5 percent decline “significantly.”

The survey was part of Barna’s weekly Church Panel, which launched in March and is in its 17th week.

A total of 17 percent of pastors say they expect attendance to grow, while 27 percent of pastors say they expect it to stay about the same.

During the first week of the survey, only 16 percent of pastors said they expected attendance to decline.

Meanwhile, a record-tying 65 percent of pastors say their churches are “open for normal use, with some precautions in place,” while 15 percent are either closed or open only for staff. Another 16 percent of churches are only open for small gatherings or meetings. Only 2 percent of pastors say their churches are opened for normal use with no precautions.

Barna also found that:

  • 29 percent of small groups are meeting as usual, while 15 percent are meeting either outdoors or practicing social distancing when gathered. One-fourth (27 percent) are meeting in real-time using video or conference calls, while 19 percent have stopped meeting.
  • 13 percent of pastors say they don’t believe they’ll be able to host services in their buildings until next year.
  • 76 percent of pastors say they believe their Christmastime evangelism and outreach efforts will be disrupted this year (53 percent “very” disrupted and 23 percent “somewhat” disrupted).
  • 8 percent are unsure their church will survive the pandemic crisis, while 1 percent are not very confident. A total of 62 percent say they are “very confident,” while 30 percent answered “confident.”

The survey was conducted Sept. 10-18.

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Beright


Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.