The Hartford Institute for Religion Research has released its second report examining how U.S. congregations are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and findings this time show most churches are embracing new and innovative ministry opportunities.
One congregation, for example, helped fund a food truck that was donated to a school to provide a mobile feeding center for a low-income community. Another launched a Memory Café, which provides a monthly social opportunity for anyone with dementia and their care partners. Another said their church went from a monthly sandwich-making ministry to feeding up to 1,200 people per week.
The survey also showed that since the pandemic began, 45% of congregations have made permanent changes to their community outreach, and more than half (54%) started a new ministry or expanded and increased an existing one.
“In this difficult time, congregations have shown extreme resiliency by adapting and finding new ways to address the changing needs of their communities,” said Allison Norton, co-investigator of the study. “By intensifying community connection and social outreach, churches are largely meeting new challenges.”
This report is based on data from the second survey of the Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations: Innovation Amidst and Beyond Covid-19 project, which includes an over-sampling of eight denominational groups and a random sampling of congregations in other denominations for a total of 38 Christian denominational groups and 820 responses and was conducted in November. It is part of a collaborative, five-year research project funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and led by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace.
U.S. churches, says the report, displayed “resilience, creativity and convictions” that have allowed them “to better address the needs of their local communities in times of suffering and hardship.”