1 in 3 Practicing Christians Is Still and Only Attending Their Pre-COVID Church

Recently, Barna Group revealed findings about “The New Sunday Morning,” highlighting trends in church attendance and engagement since the nation’s response to COVID-19 began in March of this year and social distancing pushed services online. Barna researchers identified a few types of churchgoers in this unique era of digital Church: Christians streaming their pre-COVID-19 church […]

Recently, Barna Group revealed findings about “The New Sunday Morning,” highlighting trends in church attendance and engagement since the nation’s response to COVID-19 began in March of this year and social distancing pushed services online. Barna researchers identified a few types of churchgoers in this unique era of digital Church: Christians streaming their pre-COVID-19 church online, Christians streaming a different church online and Christians who have stopped “attending” church altogether. (It should be noted, there is a segment of those who, prior to COVID-19, were not attending church and are now attending online during the pandemic—however, this group is currently too small to be considered statistically significant and is not reported on here.)

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at each of these groups of Christians, including generational and emotional trends among each. This data was collected in late April through early May 2020, so percentages mentioned below may have again shifted in recent weeks as the pandemic has progressed.

However, the responses shown here—reflecting engagement during the height of the U.S. social distancing measures this spring—can be instructive for church leaders moving forward, particularly following recent spikes in COVID-19 cases.

1 in 3 Practicing Christians Is Still and Only Attending Their Pre-COVID Church

Recent data show that, among practicing Christians—those who identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives and attend church at least monthly (prior to COVID-19)—over half (53%) say they have streamed their regular church online within the past four weeks. Another 34% admit to streaming a different church service online other than their own, essentially “church hopping” digitally.

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Finally, about one-third of practicing Christians (32%) says they have done neither of these things. Though some of these churchgoers may be part of the minority of congregations that were still gathering for physical worship during these weeks, we can, for the most part, confidently interpret this group as those who have dropped out of church for the time being.

Some respondents share that, over four weeks, they streamed both their church’s online service as well as a different church’s service, perhaps taking advantage of the variety and surge of digital options. However, the plurality has stayed tuned in to their “home” church even at home; when looking for practicing Christians who are still and only attending their pre-COVID-19 church, we find that just over a third (35%) says this has been their course of action.

Commitment extends to frequency of attendance during distancing as well; practicing Christians who stream the same church they attended before COVID-19 are significantly more likely than those who have switched churches to attend on a weekly basis (81% vs. 65%).

We see that very few (14%) have actually made a church switch amid the pandemic. It is more likely for a Christian to have stopped attending church altogether during the pandemic; in fact, 32 percent of practicing Christians have done just that. The remaining 18 percent of practicing Christians are viewing worship services from multiple churches throughout the month.

Used by permission of Barna Group. Read more at The New Sunday Morning published on June 3, 2020.