By Aaron Earls
If you open it, most will come … but a few may still hesitate.
Only 5% of U.S. houses of worship remain closed for in-person services, but only 2 in 3 regular attenders have returned, according to the latest from Pew Research.Only 5% of U.S. houses of worship remain closed for in-person services, but only 2 in 3 regular attenders have returned, according to @pewresearch. Click To Tweet
Among U.S. adults who say they attend religious services, 43% say their place of worship is open to the public and holding services in the same way as before the COVID-19 outbreak, up by 14% from September 2021 and 31% since last March.
In addition, 47% say their house of worship is open for services but with changes because of COVID-19. That’s down from 59% last September and 64% last March.
The share of attendees who say their worship houses were closed for in-person services due to the pandemic (5%) remained statistically unchanged from September (6%). Last March, however, 17% said their church doors remain closed, and 31% said they weren’t open in July 2020.
Among Christian churches, 4% of churchgoers say their churches remain closed for in-person services, down from 18% last March. Evangelical and mainline Protestant churchgoers (1% each) are the least likely to say their churches aren’t open. Historically Black Protestant churchgoers (8%) are the most likely to report their congregations still aren’t holding in-person services.
A November 2021 Lifeway Research study found 98% of U.S. Protestant pastors say their churches are holding in-person services.
In-person attendance has plateaued, after steadily rising from 2020 to early 2021. Currently, 67% of regular churchgoers say they attended a service in person in the past month, similar to the 64% who said the same in September 2021. Previously, 42% said they attended last March and 33% went in person in July 2020.In-person worship service attendance has plateaued, after steadily rising from 2020 to early 2021, according to @pewresearch. Click To Tweet
In March 2022, 68% of regular churchgoing Christians said they have attended in person in the past month—up slightly from the 64% last September. Currently, 69% of both Protestant and Catholic churchgoers have returned to in-person services, according to Pew Research.
Among Protestants, however, significant differences exist among the various traditions. Three in 4 evangelical Protestant churchgoers (75%) are back in person and have physically attended in the past month. Mainline Protestants are slightly less likely (68%) to be back in person, while less than half of historically Black Protestant churchgoers (48%) say they attended their church in person in the last month.75% of evangelical churchgoers say they have attended in person in the past month, compared to 68% of mainline Protestants and 48% of historically Black Protestant churchgoers, according to @pewresearch. Click To Tweet
As more churchgoers have returned to in-person services, fewer Americans say they’re watching church services outside of their places of worship. The share of who say they’ve streamed religious services online or watched them on TV in the past month declined from 36% in July 2020 to 28% in September 2021 and is now 30%.
Currently, 57% of Americans say they didn’t attend church in person or watch online or on TV in the past month, according to Pew Research. Among typical churchgoers, however, only 12% say they didn’t participate in any type of worship service in the past month. Evangelicals (7%) are the least likely to say they haven’t attended or participated in online or in-person worship services in the past month.
For regular churchgoers, 36% attended in person and watched online or on TV, 31% only attended in person, and 21% only streamed or watched on TV in the last month. Evangelical Protestant churchgoers (46%) are the most likely to have attended in person and watched services. Catholics (45%) are the most likely to say they have only attended in person, followed by mainline (30%) and evangelical Protestants (29%). Historically Black Protestants (35%) are by far the most likely to say they have only watched online, according to Pew Research.
According to the November 2021 Lifeway Research study, the average U.S. Protestant pastor says 73% of the church members have returned in person for worship services.
The Lifeway Research and Pew studies indicate churches are open at almost pre-pandemic levels but are still struggling to bring back all of their pre-pandemic churchgoers.If you include online attenders, the current percentage of regular churchgoers (43%) is similar to the percentage who attended monthly or more prior to the COVID-19 outbreak (45%), according to @pewresearch. Click To Tweet
Yet, if you include online attenders, the current percentage (43%) of regular churchgoers is similar to the percentage prior to the COVID-19 outbreak (45%), according to Pew Research.
Churches can work to leverage those online connections to draw people via streaming services to become physically involved again or for the first time.
Aaron is the senior writer at Lifeway Research.