According to a recent AP-NORC poll, over 25 percent of people who attended religious services at least once a month prior to the COVID-19 pandemic have no immediate plans to return to their church, synagogue, or mosque.
The nationwide poll, which was conducted June 10–14 with 1,125 adults and a margin of error of +/- 4.2 percentage points, found that a majority (73 percent) of people who attended religious services at least monthly before lockdowns plan to attend such services in-person in the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, 34 percent of respondents in general plan to return to attending religious services in person in the coming weeks, but 27 percent do not plan to go back just yet.
Scott McConnell, executive director of the evangelical research firm Lifeway Research, told the Associated Press that churchgoers are lost in limbo after many churches lost steam when in-person services were shut down during the pandemic.
“That’s a lot of momentum to lose and a lot of people stepping out of the habit” of weekly worship, McConnell said.
Earlier this year, as reported by The Christian Post, a Gallup analysis showed that for the first time in nearly 80 years, fewer than half of Americans reported having a formal membership in a house of worship.
In 1937, when Gallup first measured formal membership at houses of worship, 73 percent of respondents reported having a membership at a house of worship. Membership numbers remained steady until 1998 when numbers began to decline. As of 2020, 49 percent of American’s report having a formal membership at a house of worship.
Gallup Senior editor Jeffrey M. Jones noted that while the pandemic was likely a factor in the decline of formal church membership, the growing trend of people showing no religious preference, especially amongst young Americans, also likely contributed to the shrinking number of church members.
“While it is possible that part of the decline seen in 2020 was temporary and related to the coronavirus pandemic, continued decline in future decades seems inevitable, given the much lower levels of religiosity and church membership among younger versus older generations of adults,” he wrote.
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Milton Quintanilla is a freelance writer and content creator. He is a contributing writer for Christian Headlines and the host of the For Your Soul Podcast, a podcast devoted to sound doctrine and biblical truth. He holds a Masters of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary.