As States begin to lift lockdown orders and churches that chose to close down begin to open up again in limited fashion, surveys are showing that the return to church may not be the rush back that pastors and elders hope for, with many congregants indicating that it may be months or years even before they return to services.
We cannot find the study yet or link to it to delve more into it – it hasn’t been officially published as far as we can see. We found the report on Carey Nieuwhof’s website in a recently published blog article. Nieuwhof is the founding pastor of Connexus Church and is a frequent collaborator with Barna president David Kinnaman, even so far as having a weekly podcast with him. We are trusting that his information is accurate. He reports on his website
“As tempting as it will be to reopen the doors and believe everyone is coming back, the data (right now) shows that’s probably not the case. To begin, social distancing makes full rooms impossible and, until it’s safe to do mass gatherings, unwise. Full rooms are months away, if not longer.
Second, a recent related poll of thousands of church leaders facilitated by Gloo, (Editors note, Gloo is a technology platform that has partnered with Barna to help power and facilitate their surveys) showed people have little consensus around when they feel ‘safe’ to gather again in public.
Asked which other type of activity BEST signals to you that it is time to open in-person worship at the church, the most common answer was a low community level of COVID cases (21.5%).
Other responses included when:
- Social distancing and stay home guidelines are lifted: 17%
- Local businesses are open: 14%
- Local restaurant seating areas are open: 8%
- Testing is widely available and utilized: 6%
- Schools are open: 4%
- Vaccine available: 3%
But the following results also speak volumes:
- 15% said they would only return when all the conditions are met (low cases, businesses open, restrictions lifted, vaccine available).
- 10% admitted they just weren’t sure.
Essentially, 25% either aren’t sure or aren’t coming back for a long time.
An additional 30% of respondents said they’d rather worship at home and only return when they can be mask-free at church.”
While we eagerly the release of this survey, which is allegedly set to be published on Barna’s page in the very near future, it speaks to the way that the coronavirus pandemic has helped define the importance people have placed on attending church, as well as shows that it has either bonded churches together, or broken them apart.