Survey: Church Attendance Still Down From Pre-COVID Levels

Survey: Church Attendance Still Down From Pre-COVID Levels

While Americans have returned to attending church services in person since the pandemic, a new survey has found that it still does not match pre-COVID levels.

Released last week, the survey — conducted among 1,000 Protestant pastors between September 6-30 from a random sample of churches — found that most had also returned to in-person worship services.

“While there are a handful of exceptions, we can definitively say that churches in the U.S. have reopened,” said Lifeway Research executive director Scott McConnell. “While masks began to rapidly disappear in many settings in 2022, churchgoers have not reappeared quite as fast.”

Almost 100 percent of the churches met in person in August, the report said, up from just 75 percent in July 2020 and 98 percent from August 2021. In April 2020 meanwhile, as lockdowns began in earnest around the country, the number of churches that held in-person services dropped to roughly 10 percent, Lifeway Research reported.

But while most churches are open, in-person attendance has not rebounded. The survey found that attendance is only around 85 percent of what it was in January 2020, ahead of the lockdowns. However, that is an increase over the 73 percent of in-person attendance in August 2021 and a low of 60 percent in January 2021, which does mean that attendance is at its highest level in two years.

“Pastors ages 65 and older were more likely to report attendance between 30 to 50% of January 2020 levels, compared to pastors between 18 and 55 years of age who were more likely to report attendance greater than pre-lockdown levels,” The Daily Wire reported, citing the survey.

“Female and black pastors were also more likely to report lower attendance levels than before the lockdowns. Additionally, Evangelical pastors were more likely, at 29%, to report higher attendance compared to pre-lockdown levels than mainline pastors, at 16%,” the report added, noting that attendance varied by “region and demonination.”

“The responses also varied on region and denomination, showing pastors in the Midwest and South were more likely to report higher attendance than pastors in the Northeast. Baptists, Pentecostals, and Non-Denominational pastors were more likely to report greater attendance levels compared to January 2020 than Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterian/Reformed and Christian/Church of Christ pastors,” the Daily Wire added.

The trend for Christianity in the U.S., which has been the dominant religion since the country’s founding, is not encouraging, however.

Based on current trends, the current U.S. Christian population could fall below 50 percent by 2070, according to a Pew Research survey.

“Depending on whether religious switching continues at recent rates, speeds up or stops entirely, the projections show Christians of all ages shrinking from 64% to between a little more than half (54%) and just above one-third (35%) of all Americans by 2070,” the survey said.

“Over that same period, ‘nones’ would rise from the current 30% to somewhere between 34% and 52% of the U.S. population,” it added.


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