A new survey conducted in partnership with three separate organizations revealed that most churches have decided not to return to in-person services. Although some wish to demonstrate their First Amendment rights by returning to worship, many are uncertain about the future of physical gatherings.
The Uncertainty of In-Person Worship
The new study was administered June 1-12 through an online form provided by Exponential. It received 767 responses from 46 states. The results showed that most churches have yet to return to in-person services. Although states have started reopening churches, many are simply not ready.
Those who are returning are having to make significant accommodations for their parishioners. Members long to worship with one another again but are still apprehensive about the health risks.
This new survey from the Wheaton Billy Graham Center’s Send Institute and the Association of Related Churches revealed three insightful data points that church leaders may find useful.
Majority of Churches Have Not Resumed In-Person Services
The survey asked church leaders the following question: “Given your state’s mandates, how much of your church can potentially gather at a time for in-person corporate worship gatherings?”
- Six percent said they were located in a state that still did not allow in-person services.
- Twenty-five percent said they were able to gather at half capacity.
- Fourteen percent said the local government allowed for full in-person worship.
Regardless of state restrictions or health guidelines, 67 percent of church leaders say they have yet to begin gathering in person.
Many Churches Still Unsure of When In-Person Services Will Resume
Although half of churches surveyed will resume in-person services in June, nearly a third are still unsure of their return.
- Eighteen percent have been meeting in person since May.
- Thirty-three percent said they plan to resume gathering in June.
- Another 20 percent have plans to resume in-person services by the fall.
- Twenty-eight percent remain uncertain of their return.
Although larger churches will have more logistics to work through, smaller congregations usually have an older demographic. This creates a new set of circumstances that need to be considered when resuming in-person services.
Church Members Are Split on When to Resume in-Person Services
According to the survey, church leaders listed membership care as their top priority, especially during a pandemic. When asked about the level of influence members had on returning to in-person services, the results were somewhat divided.
- “Some influence to return sooner” (38%)
- “Some influence to wait longer” (22%)
- “No influence” (20%)
Twenty-eight percent of church leaders said their “church is close to evenly split on whether to return to in-person meetings now.”
Either “a majority of the church support returning to in-person meetings now” (22%) or “A majority of the church support continuing our current online meetings” (17%). The survey revealed that across the nation, churches are split about returning.