Only 7 percent of Protestant churches met in-person last weekend, and even fewer plan to meet for Easter in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey by LifeWay Research.
The poll found that 99 percent of Protestant pastors were meeting March 1 – the first Sunday of the month – although that percentage fell each succeeding week:
- 95 percent met March 8
- 64 percent met March 15
- 11 percent met March 22
- 7 percent met March 29
Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, said the shift was even more prominent among churches with 200 or more attendees.
“Gathering for worship as a local church is a fundamental expression of the body of Christ, but so are valuing life and loving others,” McConnell said in an online analysis. “As mitigation guidance first impacted large churches, the majority of churches with 200 or more attendees were not meeting by March 15, and only 1 percent of them met March 22 as guidance continued to shift.”
Only 3 percent of churches said they will meet in-person on Easter “no matter what.” Nearly half (47 percent) already have decided to cancel services, according to LifeWay Research.
Meanwhile, 92 percent of churches are live-streaming their services or providing members with a pre-recorded video. According to the poll:
- 43 percent of pastors said they “livestreamed a sermon or worship service this last month because of the coronavirus and do not typically do this.”
- 27 percent “did not livestream, but we did post a video sermon for our congregation to view any time because of the coronavirus.”
- 22 percent “continued livestreaming of our sermon or worship service as we were already in the habit of doing.”
- 8 percent did not livestream or provide a video.
“The rapid adoption of providing video content has been just as abrupt as ceasing in-person meetings,” McConnell said. “Churches who never would have considered offering a streaming or video option, have quickly done so. Their pastors were compelled to stay connected and to continue to provide spiritual guidance during this trying time.”
The pandemic has had a major impact in other areas, too. Forty-two percent of pastors said at least one attendee has lost their job. More than half of pastors (52 percent) said giving to their church has decreased.
The poll was based on an online survey of 400 Protestant pastors March 30-31.
Photo courtesy: Daniel Tseng/Unsplash
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.