Will People Return to Church After Coronavirus?

Will people go back to church after the COVID-19 pandemic? New survey from Center for Bible Engagement shows people may not return to church after Coronavirus.

During a May 3 virtual town hall at the Lincoln Memorial, President Trump expressed a great desire for Americans to be able to get back to inperson church services, but is that likely to happen after church members have grown used to online attendance during the Coronavirus pandemic? A recent survey of pastors conducted this month by the Center for Bible Engagement shows that 62% of churches are recording better attendance for online services than for regular church services. An earlier study by CBN indicated that about half of churches had seen a rise in online attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, when it comes to tithing, 42% of churches say that giving is worse than before the pandemic while 33% say giving is about the same. The survey also revealed that some church leaders are worried about what happens once quarantine has lifted.

Other churches appear to be thriving during Coronavirus. LifeChurch reports that when the church stopped meeting physically, members adapted and attended Life.Church Online in record numbers. In a message from pastor Craig Groeschel, he states that generosity never wavered and that members are continuing to give over and above to COVID-19 Response and Digital Missions.

Will People Return to Church After Coronavirus?

Arnie Cole, CEO of Back to the Bible and the Center for Bible Engagement, says there are reasons to believe that across the board, people may not be returning to the pews after the COVID19 pandemic ends.

“How church leaders plan and respond now will make the critical difference in how the Church continues after the pandemic,” says Cole. “Each of us can choose to virtually attend any church with an online presence. This choice can be an add-on to our active participation in our local church, or a substitute for it. Online worship with the mega church across the country can be a ‘yes, and’ or an ‘in lieu of.’ As behavior scientists, we believe the ‘in lieu of’ scenario is the more likely one, and that has many pastors and leaders concerned.”

Cole says they have discovered several reasons why people may not return to in-person services. He says people have developed new habits during the pandemic that may keep them doing church online rather than in-person. Live streaming sermons are interactive, and most people appreciate the ability to comment, chat or even ask a question during a service. Additionally, the culture has taught people to expect things to be customized to their time schedules and available on-demand. Cole says if congregants decide to stay online for Sunday services, pastors and leaders can still make an impact in people’s lives.

“First and foremost,” says Cole, “church leaders need to meet people where they are. While Greg Laurie can share the words of Jesus with 1.3 million people online, he can’t meet the day-to-day needs of all the people who hear him preach. Church leaders need to make personal relationships with their members priority one. They need to concentrate on the six days between Sundays, helping people stay connected with God beyond the four walls of a church.  The difference between a lukewarm Christian and an engaged disciple-maker is what they do between Sundays.”

Photo of church by Kathryn Darden
Church at sunset

Churches of all sizes can utilize several free resources from Back to the Bible during this time of transition. A well-being survey which provides pastors with key information about their own church members can be embedded into any existing website or shared via email or social media. Additionally, the BttB.App platform offers churches the ability to integrate their existing websites with various functions such as coordination of online groups and classes, social engagement between members, live streaming as well as taped sermons, manage email communication with congregants, among other uses. The livestream feature integrates with twelve existing services including Facebook Live, YouTube Live, Zoom, Join.Me, and Vimeo, among others.

The Center for Bible Engagement (CBE) began in 2003 as a research division of Back to the Bible and has become a major resource center addressing Bible engagement and spiritual growth. CBE researchers have studied the spiritual lives of more than 400,000 people around the world including hundreds of individual churches. Back to the Bible’s Center for Bible Engagement has used research initiatives and peer-reviewed studies to develop discipleship tools such as g oTandem and the BttB.App. In six months, 83% of users of the goTandem app move from zero interaction with the Bible to engaging the Bible four or more times per week. For further information visit www.centerforbibleengagement.org.

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