Most Protestant churches in the United States have returned to in-person services, and most also are practicing social distancing by closing off certain seats to battle the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new LifeWay Research survey.
More than 70 percent of Protestant churches met in-person in July – a stark contrast to April when only 10 percent met.
The survey of Protestant pastors shows that 71 percent of churches met July 19, 73 percent met July 12, and 70 percent met July 5.
Meanwhile, churches are taking extra precautions to stop the spread of the virus.
- 94 percent are providing hand sanitizer, masks or gloves to those needing it.
- 86 percent are conducting additional cleaning of surfaces.
- 76 percent are closing seats to increase distance between people and to practice social distancing.
- 59 percent recommend masks. Around a third (35 percent) are requiring them.
Although most churches did not meet in May, a majority (55 percent) said they met the first weekend in June.
Still, 21 percent of pastors say they have not met since the pandemic started.
One-fifth (21 percent) of churches have offered drive-in services during the pandemic, according to the study.
“Resuming in-person worship services has not been reverting to worship as usual,” said Scott McConnell, executive director LifeWay Research. “Churches are making efforts to make the environment safe, but these efforts are often second-guessed by those who either want more precautions or less restrictions.”
Although most churches are meeting in-person again, only 29 percent are holding in-person Bible studies. Even fewer (13 percent) are holding children’s activities.
“Maintaining social distance and necessary sanitation is very difficult with younger ages,” McConnell said. “To complicate things further, some of the volunteers who normally work with kids and students are in higher-risk groups who are not ready to return any time soon.”
The survey was conducted July 20-22.
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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.