Chris Lange, FISM News
Roughly one in three Americans have stopped attending church, a new study shows.
The study, titled “Faith After the Pandemic: How COVID-19 Changed American Religion,” conducted by the Survey on American Life and researchers at NORC at the University of Chicago, looked at the continued impact pandemic lockdowns have had on church attendance in a post-pandemic America.
A report on the findings noted that “pandemic lockdowns disrupted religious participation for millions of Americans” and that COVID-19 “precipitated an overall decline in religious attendance.”
“Much of this decline in attendance was due to people completely abstaining from worship,” the report continued, noting that “[t]he number of Americans who became completely disconnected from a place of worship increased significantly over the past few years. Before the pandemic, one in four Americans reported that they never attended religious services. By spring 2022, that share increased to 33 percent.”
The largest declines in church attendance were seen among white and black Protestants and Hispanic Catholics aged 50 and younger who have a college degree or less.
Conservatives, adults aged 50+, women, married adults, and those with a college degree were more likely to attend than were other groups in both periods.
FISM’s Seth Udinski in November reported on the findings of a Lifeway Research survey which showed that church attendance among Protestants has risen in the aftermath of the pandemic but still falls short of pre-pandemic numbers.
Churches, on average, reported only 63% of their pre-pandemic in-person attendance in September 2020. By August 2021, that number rose to 73%. It jumped another 12 points the following year.
“While masks began to rapidly disappear in many settings in 2022, churchgoers have not reappeared quite as fast,” Lifeway Research Executive Director Scott McConnell said in a statement at the time.
Udinski linked the struggle among churches to refill their pews to a “mindset shift in some believers due to months of isolation and broken habit” that came out of pandemic lockdowns and the sudden availability of streaming worship services.
Last August’s edition of the “State of the Bible: USA 2022” report from the American Bible Society found that 40% of Generation Z adults ages 18 and older attended church “primarily online,” followed closely by 36% of churchgoers ages 77 and older.
While online worship services are certainly convenient, Udinski pointed out that “physically gathering with other believers is both important for one’s spiritual health and is also an act of obedience to God.”
“The reality is, for many of us, the temptation to neglect the assembly is always there. Even a simple rainstorm, a late Saturday night, a snooze button on the alarm, or some other inconvenience is often enough to keep a Christian from going to church,” he said.
This article was partially informed by a report by The Christian Post.