A study found that congregants still haven't returned just yet despite most Protestant churches already open for services.
The Christian Post said a survey conducted by Lifeway Research on 1,000 Protestant pastors in Sept. 1-29 reveal that there has been slow "foot traffic" into pews for churches despite a majority being open for in-person services. This is said to be more common for Black churches.
The data particularly showed that 98% of all Protestant churches now provide in-person services that is much similar to how it was prior to the pandemic. Lifeway Research said this record is the "highest percentage of churches holding in-person services since March 2020, when COVID-19 became a national health issue."
Accordingly, 99% of Protestant churches for the first week of March 2020 met in person and this declined to 7% for the same month. This record increased to 87% by September 2020 then dropped to 76% come January 2021.
Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell explained that the resumption of services for churches varied during the pandemic although most of these are active now. He stressed that in-person services are very important among those who practice Christianity.
"Every church's path has been different during the pandemic, and each stage of resuming specific aspects of ministry is significant. Worshiping together as a physical assembly of believers in Jesus Christ is an important element of the Christian faith. For almost all Protestant churches, this stage of ministry is now active again, though other aspects of ministry may not be," McConnell said.
In so far as the attendees are concerned, a majority or 91% signified having plans to attend church more than they did before the pandemic began, especially if "once COVID-19 was no longer an active threat to people's health."
This was affirmed by Pastors who reported experiencing more churchgoers by September 2020. The average attendees prior to the pandemic was said to be at 63% and went down a little to 60% by January 2021. This rose to 73% come August this year for Sunday worship.
Despite this, McConnell said there is still "a gap" to in-person attendance now as compared to what it once was before the pandemic.
"Many pastors and church leaders are anxious for the whole congregation to gather physically together/ Worship attendance is improving, but there is still a large gap between today's in-person attendance and pre-COVID levels," McConnell remarked.
The Lifeway Research data pointed out that 13% of churches are attracting less than half the number of worship attendees prior to the pandemic as of August this year when compared to January 2020. While 35% of pastors said that attendance for the said period ranges from half to 70% of what it was prior to the pandemic.
There are 30% who reported that attendees ranged from 70% to 90% for the same period. Yet one in eight of all churches reported having attendance levels between 90% and 100%. Although there is a small number or churches who reported having more attendees in August than they had before the pandemic at 9%.