New research predicts that within 18 months of the COVID-19 nationwide restrictions, 1 in 5 churches will be forced to close their doors permanently.

Church attendance and donations have greatly decreased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, due in large part to government-ordered closures of church services.

Government mandates against large, indoor gatherings forced most churches to switch their services to online forums at the beginning of the pandemic. Months later, many churches are still struggling against government mandates to open their doors again.

David Kinnaman – president of Barna Group, a Christian research organization – told NPR on Monday that even as churches re-open, they are still facing great hardship in attendance and donations.

“…more and more churches are re-opening,” Kinnaman told NPR, “but they’re opening up with a lot less people coming, and they’re recognizing that the relationships that they thought were much deeper with people were actually not as deep as they expected.”

Kinnaman has been calling pastors nationwide every week to gauge their hope for the future and the current state of their congregations. At the beginning of the pandemic, around 70% of the pastors he spoke with were “very confident” that their church would outlast the pandemic.

Now, that number has dropped to 58%.

“…simply re-opening a church doesn’t fix the underlying economic challenges,” Kinnaman said.

According to Kinnaman, there are over 300,000 Protestant and 14,000 Catholic congregations in America. The vast majority of these churches rely on donations from their congregants to keep the churches running, to pay their pastors, and to run charities and other outreaches in their communities.

NPR also interviewed Robert Turner, the pastor of Vernon AME Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, who reported that their tithe donations dropped significantly since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Most of the members we have joined during the heyday. They’re now old – they’re senior citizens,” said Pastor Turner. The church live streams their services every Sunday, but older populations are not as quick to engage in online communities. “So our finances have taken a huge blow,” he explained.

Barna Group also released findings that 1 in 3 practicing Christians have stopped attending church altogether since the beginning of the pandemic.

Kinnaman told NPR, “We’ll look back at this pandemic as a fundamental change to the ways Americans both attend church…and I think it’s also going to change the way people think about their donation relationship with local churches as well…”

“The digital church is here to stay.”

Caitlin Bassett

Caitlin Bassett graduated from Liberty University in 2017 with her Bachelor's in Politics and Policy. She grew up in the great Pacific Northwest, but now calls Northern California home as she pursues ministry school.

View all posts

4 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Oh my goodness , what to say about an insane, self destructive , mayor who had not lick of sense nor a lucid thought of how to protect his city and it’s people from dangerous anarchists and thugs! “ oh the lack of humanity” at 77, i can suggest his constituents attach his behind to a NYC caboose.
    A liberty medal for Justice Ginsburg? Does that equate with her unwavering liberal votes? I am very close in age to her, so rather than be judgemental since I don’t know her entire voting record I will pass !

  • After he got rid of the police he needs their help but he’s not going to eat crow. He’s looking for some mid ground to show that he’s trying to stop the riots while still not accepting Trump’s help.