Barna recently reported findings of the church trending responses as they collected data from different churches to see how the church leaders and their congregations are faring in the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The results displayed a stable level of attendance for online services and the financial offering continue to stay low.
The data, gathered from April 28-May 4, 2020, presented that about 42% of pastors reporting that the online attendance rate was similar to regular Sunday service from last week. Only 33% said it was lower, while 23% said the participation was higher. The data suggest that remote gathering is finding balance as people adapting to the new normal.
The financial giving continues to remain low and similar to last week, as 41% of pastors reported that the amount of offering, they received was about the same. But 42% of pastors reported that the offering decreased, 12% significantly, 30% slightly. Only 16% of pastors informed that the offering increased, 13% significantly, 3% slightly.
The week prior record revealed 38% of pastors reporting the about the same amount of offering was received. Also, 38% of pastors informed that the offering went down. Thus, the amount of offering has stabilized from the last week's report while the financial struggle continues for churches.
Pastor, author and culture expert Mark Sayers commented about the data collected during the Barna weekly podcast, "We're finding ourselves in a profound moment where there's actually a loss of control. In moments like this, we've been reduced to an aspect of leadership that I actually think is biblical, [called] spiritual authority."
"It's not positional leadership, it's not leadership through charisma; it's actual spiritual authority. In this moment of disruption, I think one of the key invitations [we need to address] is how do we lead with spiritual authority."
Meanwhile, as many states begin to lift the "stay-home" orders slowly, data gathered from pastors exhibited that a significant portion of pastors held out hope of their congregation gathering again sooner rather than later.
The majority of pastors (51%) believed that they are hoping to get back to physical church service in June, while 33% pastors hoping this would happen sometime in May. Only 3% of pastors thought it would take until the fall season to gather physically and 12% of pastors expected it won't be until July or August until they could hold in-person services again.
Additionally, the collected data revealed that the majority of pastors are reluctant to hold in-person services immediately after the regulation is lifted. 52% of pastors answered that they would not hold service in the Church right after. Also, only 2% of pastors reported that worship service will be same as before the COVID-19 pandemic. This suggested that pastors are expecting new norm when it comes to Church services as the virus have changed the whole system.
Pastor Sayers said, "After we come out of a crisis, there's a sense in us that wants to go back to normal. But God was already preparing a people before this [crisis]. I believe there's going to be a remnant in the global Church who step into the invitation [of this moment] and come back with a tenacity of faith, a spiritual resilience."
"My hope is that when dawn breaks, the Church is actually going to come back stronger. My encouragement for leaders at this moment who are feeling frightened, scared or a loss of control is to step into this moment. This is an incredible moment-God wants to do something-so step into it."