Nine out of 10 Protestant churches in the U.S. did not meet in-person during the month of April amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and few pastors say they will resume all normal activities right away when government restrictions are lifted, according to a new LifeWay Research poll.
The survey of pastors showed that 90 percent of Protestant churches did not meet in-person during April – a similar finding to a previous poll in which 93 percent of churches did not meet in-person the final week of March. Most state and local governments did not begin restricting in-person meetings until the middle of March.
Even on Easter Sunday, 93 percent of Protestant churches did not meet.
Churches out West are the most likely to say they never halted in-person meetings.
“By the end of March, the gravity of the pandemic had changed churches’ behavior across the nation,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research. “The need for precautions did not change throughout April and churches maintained their temporary avoidance of gathering physically.”
Few churches have plans to resume all normal activities when government restrictions and guidance are lifted. For example:
- 16 percent of pastors say they’ll resume “all normal activities” right away.
- 23 percent will wait a few additional weeks and then resume activities gradually.
- 7 percent will resume meetings for small groups/classes first and then resume worship services later.
- 30 percent will resume worship services first and will wait longer to resume small groups/classes.
- 24 percent have not made any plans for resuming activities.
Most churches (97 percent) are offering a livestream or a video of the sermon.
Meanwhile, the pandemic has had a major impact on the finances of attendees and churches. Eighty-four percent of pastors say an attendee’s income has been impacted by reduced hours at work, and 57 percent say an attendee has lost his or her job. Forty percent of pastors say giving to their church has decreased compared to the same time last year. (In March, 52 percent of pastors said giving had decreased.)
The poll of 470 Protestant pastors was conducted April 27-29.
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-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.