A recent study titled "Restoring Relationships" by Barna and the Boone Center for the Family at Pepperdine University sought to learn more about the relational health of Christians and the Church.
It is common knowledge that relationships are extremely impactful on the lives and wellbeing of people. Relationships are something that humans rely upon daily. Therefore to have an unhealthy relationship, or even lack of a relationship, can have negative impacts on one's mental health. An interesting aspect of Barna's study was that it surveyed respondents before the pandemic, as well as during up until now.
The data revealed was that even before the pandemic, the relationships of many Americans were strained. According to the report, of the individuals surveyed between March and May of 2019, 58 percent of Americans and 54 percent of Christians said that their relationships are impacted by at least one relational or emotional health issue. However, with the spread of the Coronavirus and much of the world in quarantine, wholly different stressors are being added to, and severing, many relationships.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Barna began conducting weekly pastor surveys to gain insight into how members of the Protestant Church were holding up in the crisis and inquiring about the congregants' needs. By the third week of April, emotional, spiritual, and relational well-being made up 34 percent, 25 percent, and 23 percent respectively of the issues pastors noted as being of the most concern to their congregations. By August four months later, two of the three concerns had increased in representation (28% emotional, 35% spiritual, 27% relational). Barna thus believes these three challenges to be intimately linked to each other, meaning that to struggle in one of these areas would likely result in an individual struggling with the others as well.
Many Christians would look to their pastors and priests for guidance when struggling with these challenges. Although Barna's pastor surveys indicate that 89 percent of U.S. church leaders at least somewhat, or definitely, know and understand the needs of their congregants in respect to their mental/relational health, only 34 percent of the pastors had addressed the subject of mental health in one of their sermons over the past month. However, Pastors are not immune to the relational stresses brought on by the pandemic either. By mid-May of 2020, 26 percent of pastors admitted that relational well-being was what they struggled most with, and 31 percent stated emotional well being. Even as of August 2020, when asked the same questions, 51 percent of pastors rated these areas of their health as average or below average.
In the response to the emotional and relational tolls brought on by the virus, Barna has stated that on September 30th, they will host a "free virtual event, in partnership with the Boone Center for the Family at Pepperdine University, to take a deeper look at these issues and more from Restoring Relationships. Throughout the digital summit, data from this new research report will be analyzed with a fresh lens for the current moment and paired with more recent findings to offer pastors and faith leaders valuable insights that can help round out their approach to caring for the relational health of themselves and their people, even in the midst of crisis."