Sunday, August 30, 2020

Can the Churches Survive the COVID-19 Pandemic?

 Tampa Bay, Fl 

Opinion by: E. Eugene Webb PhD
Author:  In Search of Robin, So You Want to Blog.      

According to a Harvard Institute for Religion Research Study there are about 350,000 religious congregations in the United States. Virtually all of these congregations have been impacted, one way or another, by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As church attendance dropped dramatically following the advance of the pandemic, tithes, offerings, and gifts also declined. While in many cases in person attendance has dropped to near zero, revenues, bolstered by online attendance and giving, are generally reported to have dropped somewhere in the range of 30%.

From the Washington Post By Michelle Boorstein, April 24, 2020: Church donations have plunged because of the coronavirus. Some churches won’t survive.

Like all enterprises, churches and religious congregations operate as a function of their ability to generate revenue.

While the current pressing issue of reopening churches as the pandemic ebbs and flows is a critical concern, the real issue and the biggest question is when the church reopens will the congregation return?

From Baptist Press, By Thom Rainer, posted August 27, 2020 in Churches and Ministry, COVID-19: FIRST-PERSON: Five types of church members who will not return after the quarantine.

“So, who are these non-returning church members? Why are they not returning? Here are the five most common dropout groups. The groups are not mutually exclusive; there could be significant overlap.

1. The decreasing attendance members. These were your members who, at one time, attended church almost four times a month.
2. The disconnected church members. If a church member is in a small group, his or her likelihood of returning is high. If they attend worship only, their likelihood of attendance is much lower.
3. The church-is-another-activity church members. These church members see gathered attendance as yet another activity on par, or lower, than other activities.
4. The constant-critic church members. These church members always had some complaints for the pastor.
5. The cultural Christian church members. They were part of a declining group well before the pandemic. They were those church members who likely were not Christians but came to church to be accepted culturally.

In most religious denominations, attendance has been slowly dropping for a number of years now. As we have become more socially connected through the Internet, it seems the desire for an in-person faith experience has significantly decreased.

It also seems in the evangelical world, that faith in a living God who operates as the center focus of the human experience is waning.

As congregations began streaming their services or developing service based social media
programming as an attempt to provide spiritual support for their congregations, the question now arises since people can attend church on Sunday morning or anytime, for that matter, simply by clicking on their churches’ website and streaming a live service will they return to the brick and mortar church building?

Is the spiritual training for children and adults along with the social interaction with the church experience sufficient enough to encourage people and congregations to return to the church building?

It will be a while before we know the answer to those questions, it currently looks like we will be dealing with this pandemic well into 2021.

World Health Organization Publications: Practical considerations and recommendations for religious leaders and faith-based communities in the context of COVID-19. If your Church is struggling with a reopening decision, be sure to check out the DECISION TREE link.

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