Church Attendance Is at 85 Percent of Pre-Pandemic Levels, Poll Says: Many 'Have Not Returned'

Michael Foust | ChristianHeadlines.com Contributor | Wednesday, November 9, 2022
Church Attendance Is at 85 Percent of Pre-Pandemic Levels, Poll Says: Many 'Have Not Returned'

Church Attendance Is at 85 Percent of Pre-Pandemic Levels, Poll Says: Many 'Have Not Returned'


The doors of American churches are open again, although their attendance numbers are not back to pre-pandemic levels, according to a new Lifeway Research survey.

The poll of Protestant pastors found that churches in August were, on average, at 85 percent of their worship service attendance levels compared to January 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly across the United States in March 2020, leading many congregations to close. The 85 percent is an improvement from August 2021, when the average attendance was 73 percent, compared to January 2020.

The survey was released Wednesday.

Meanwhile, nearly 100 percent of Protestant pastors say their churches are now open for in-person services, according to the poll. In August 2021, it was 98 percent.

“While there are a handful of exceptions, we can definitively say that churches in the U.S. have reopened,” said Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research. “While masks began to rapidly disappear in many settings in 2022, churchgoers have not reappeared quite as fast.”

McConnell surmised that some Christians are attending church less often than they did pre-pandemic. A separate Lifeway survey from this year found that 34 percent of Christians said they attended worship service four or more times a month pre-pandemic. Only 26 percent of Christians in April 2022 answered that way. In the same time frame, the percentage of Christians who say they attend church less than once a month grew from 36 percent to 43 percent.

“While some pre-COVID churchgoers have not returned to church at all, much of the decline in attendance is from people who are attending less often,” McConnell said.

Different churches, he said, are “having different experiences.”

“More than a third are at 90% or more of pre-pandemic attendance,” McConnell said. “More than a third are stuck with less than 70% of their people back on a typical Sunday. And, just under a third are in between 70% and less than 90% attending.”

Photo courtesy: Sandro Gonzalez/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-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.