COVID collateral damage: A third of us stopped going to church

Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Michael F. Haverluck (

empty pews in churchCOVID-19 is infecting more than immune systems, as fear and lockdowns caused by the Chinese virus have kept nearly a third (32%) of practicing Christians in America from attending church in any form … both in-person and online.

The Barna Group's survey conducted during late April and early May revealed that a similar percentage of practicing Christians have remained loyal to their conventional worship services.

"One in three practicing Christians is still and only attending their pre-COVID church," Barna reports. "Over half (53%) say they have streamed their regular church online within the past four weeks, [while] another 34% admits to streaming a different church service online other than their own, essentially 'church hopping' digitally."

Commitment to worship regularly

As the graph below indicates, the percentage of those whose faith walk has been relatively undisturbed and consistently showed up at church is a tad bit higher, and those who remain with their home churches are more likely to attend frequently.

Barna graph 1 7-14-20

"Commitment extends to frequency of attendance during distancing as well; practicing Christians who stream the same church they attended before COVID-19 are significantly more likely than those who have switched churches to attend on a weekly basis (81% vs. 65%)," researchers discovered.

It was also found that younger generations of Americans – even though they are at lower risk of having any serious complications from the coronavirus – have been skipping church at greater rates than older generations. Among those responding to the survey, one out of two practicing Christian Millennials are not going to church during the pandemic or attending online (see chart below).

Barna graph 2 7-14-20

With Millennials slipping away from church fellowship more than the Elder and Boomer generations – which make up 56% of practicing Christians in America – outreaches and discipleships offered for the younger generations appear to be crucial more than ever during the pandemic.

"Though younger generations might be more accustomed to digital routines and innovations, their tenuous relationship with institutions seems to persist during this era of digital Church," Barna notes from its study.

Less church, more burdens

Barna further discovered from its "New Sunday Morning" study that Americans from coast to coast who stopped attending church during the coronavirus outbreak bear more emotional burdens.

"Among practicing Christians who have lessened or completely stopped digital worship attendance, individual flourishing – new research-backed metrics church leaders can use to encourage spiritual and personal growth among their people – is also hindered," the results indicate.

"Respondents who have stopped attending church during COVID-19 are less likely than their peers who are still attending the same church during the pandemic to agree with the statement, 'I am not anxious about my life, as I have an inner peace from God.'"

As the bar graphs indicate below, going to church tends to significantly increase good feelings – such as inner peace – and decrease bad ones … including boredom and insecurity (as displayed in the chart below).

Barna graph 3 7-14-20

Key takeaways

A number of observations and deductions have been made from the survey results, showing that church fellowship benefits Americans – while staying away takes its toll. Consequently, there are distinct changes in needs (shown in the last graph) of those remaining in church … as opposed to those skipping services during the pandemic.

"[D]uring a pandemic, the factors impacting well-being are many – but these are at least indications of a more challenging emotional climate for those who are not presently part of a church community," Barna researchers conclude. "Even those who have stopped regularly attending worship services during the pandemic want support from a church community."

Editor's note: Graphs compliments of


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