Barna: A third of “practicing Christians” have stopped attending church since COVID-19, even by video

"In a more in-depth examination of those groups released Wednesday, researchers found significant generational divides, noting that half of practicing Christian millennials had not attended church in the past four weeks. By contrast, only 35% of Gen X Christians and 26% of Baby Boomer Christians had foregone digital church attendance." - CPost

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WallyMorris's picture

Perhaps this reveals the shallow beliefs and dedication of many Christians. If they won't even watch an online service, which doesn't take much effort, then we are kidding ourselves about the strength of the Christian church in America.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

M. Osborne's picture

We've had an interesting mix and I've heard of interesting mixes in other churches too. Both in my church and in the MA church I grew up in, prayer meeting attendance has actually increased in the online format. Perhaps it shows something about people's work schedules and commute times that more people can make it if you just cut out the extra drive. Years ago my wife and I used to delay supper on Wednesdays to make it straight from work to prayer meeting, but many people don't think that way, and the online solution makes it easier for them. In my church, we've also done nightly prayer times, not just Wednesdays, and our Pastor observes that some members have spiritually flourished from the extra time together. There's also a 1:15 pm online Bible study / book reading that some people are actively participating in, and others are tuning into while they work (myself included). As a homeschooling family, we didn't up our attendance much beyond the Wednesday night, which we consider an immovable commitment.

The elders also divied up the congregation and kept up by calling, and I was so blessed to hear how much the members keep in touch with each other outside of church.

That said, we have also had members who say they're watching the YouTube sermon on Sundays but don't feel the need to join the online chat after the live stream, even though they have the technical capabilities. (In all this there's a sliding scale based on age and technical capabilities; although we have a very old lady who is doing weekly phone Bible studies with the pastor and does call around.) Anyway...the people not joining the chats and not making themselves super available by phone...I'd consider them to be the spiritually at-risk members already. They're the ones that sit around watching TV a lot already; they're the ones who re-post questionable memes and philosophies on their social media, etc.

So yes, I have a lot of spiritual concerns about the constraints on ministry during this time, but I have to admit that it hasn't been an unmitigated disaster. Some people are really flourishing.

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

Ed Vasicek's picture

I copied and pasted my comment on CPost here:

 

So many modern Christians do not want the WORD. And it is the Word that is best communicated online. We have turned many of our churches into adrenaline-exciting rock concerts, and that cannot be achieved online. I know a survey like this cannot get deep, but my suspicion is that Christians who prioritize the Word are online, and those after a musical fix are not.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

One thought that occurs to me--and I confess this can reasonably seen as a little soapbox of mine--is that we will see some true believers online, but we will also see them trying out new ways of spreading the Word and having fellowship.  This is a great opportunity, in my view, for us to go beyond "the way we've always done it" to design and test ways of reaching out that do not require the use of church buildings that--for reasons of COVID or coming persecution--may not be usable for the purposes we designed and built them for.

And yes, many of those who are "showing up as empty Zoom meeting invitations" may be showing us what they're really about, and...perhaps we should be grateful for that.  Not that we should be glad that people are showing themselves as "not of the flock", but rather that we're being given the opportunity to do a bit of soul-searching and ask ourselves "what did we miss about this person?" and the like.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

I had to renew my driver's license. Here in Minneapolis the queues are very long (I've driven twice to the DMV in Plymouth (Minneapolis suburb) and the lines are very long.

This morning we left the house at 7 am and drove 1 hour West to the DMV station in Glencoe, MN. It was a pleasant experience and I was able to renew in 15 min. Then we went out for breakfast (1st time out for a meal in 5 months!). 

Our experience:

  • At the DMV: They are very serious about masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing, and wipe down of surfaces.
  • Ditto the restaurant: masks, plexiglass dividers, every-other-table, wipe-down of menus & surfaces

Some churches:

  • No removal or block-off of seating
  • No masks

Point:  If a facility is not serious about COVID, some won't come.

Ed Vasicek's picture

Jim said:

Point:  If a facility is not serious about COVID, some won't come.

That might explain why they don't attend in person, but not why they don't watch online.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

Per Ed's comment, many comment that the primary reason people choose a church is not the theology or even the preaching, but the overall experience--what we might call fellowship.  At one level, video is a rough approximation for that, and at another, we might wonder if we've got weaknesses in teaching that make it obvious to parishioners that they chose the church for their friends.  I know my church is having trouble reaching people online, especially the young, ironically.

Another possibility is that (and I am pointing at myself as a deacon here) we've inadvertently cultivated an attitude where people are "takers" rather than "givers".   Hence if the programs are gone, so are the people.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Jim's picture

Ed Vasicek wrote:

Jim said:

Point:  If a facility is not serious about COVID, some won't come.

That might explain why they don't attend in person, but not why they don't watch online.

In this COVID crisis, Pastors face this ...:

All this makes the "worship wars" and "version wars" pale by comparison! Add to all of this the recession. Wow!

 

 

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

Per Ed's comment, many comment that the primary reason people choose a church is not the theology or even the preaching, but the overall experience--what we might call fellowship.

Depending on where you live, that's not all that unreasonable, even among those who value the truth over experience.  If you live in an area where there are few good churches, obviously the theology and preaching will largely determine the church attended.  On the other hand, if you live in much of the south, for example, you can often find several (or even many churches) with good theology and preaching.  In that case, the decision will often come down to other factors that make the choice.  Maybe a church needs more workers so you can more easily use your gifts to serve.  Or maybe the music part of the service is more to your liking at one church than another.  Maybe one church does have better fellowship and another seems more distant.  None of these are bad reasons to pick a church if you have already evaluated the beliefs and preaching and found them good.

Dave Barnhart

Ed Vasicek's picture

Bert said:

  None of these are bad reasons to pick a church if you have already evaluated the beliefs and preaching and found them good.

Bert, you are missing my point.  If you value Bible teaching and are into the Word, I am suggesting you are more likely to watch your church's e-service.  Whereas many Christians say that are into the Word but prefer the music at such and such a church, the actual reality is that many of those people barely know Genesis from Revelation and don't want to know.

So your point is valid about an area where there is a lot of good teaching.  But it is the shallow churches -- where sermons are neither doctrinal nor textually deep -- that would have the most to lose in a live stream. If you are in a church for the feeling the music ("worship") gives you, and musicians cannot practice or play, all that is left is a sermon and perhaps a simple song -- no draw.  If, on the other hand, you value the solid teaching of the Word and your church is solid, there is still some significant draw.  Not as good as real church, but still worth your time and effort.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

Ed, that was Dave saying that, actually.  :^)

At any rate, agreed that there are a lot of people whose knowledge of Scripture is minimal in the church, which is about what I was getting at in my comment.  Except I ought to quibble with my own point and note that if someone doesn't know the book of Matthew from a hole in the wall, we might wonder whether what they call "fellowship" actually qualifies.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.