042 | Rich Villodas on How to Provide Pastoral Care During a Pandemic Plus Barna Data on the Lack of Digital Spiritual Formation Offerings in Churches
January 07, 2021
In the age of the 24-7 news cycle, American attention is in constant demand—with notifications coming every hour, time of quiet and solitude is rare. But pastor and author Rich Villodas believes that this high-attention state may be dangerous for church leaders and their congregants.
In recent ChurchPulseWeekly episodes, Villodas and podcast host Carey Nieuwhof discuss an alternative way to live: the hope that churches and leaders can model lives of contemplation.
About the Research
The research presented from Barna’s 2020 journal Six Questions About the Future of the Hybrid Church Experience was conducted online from September 1 to 15, 2020. In total, Barna surveyed 1,302 U.S. adults. The sample error for this study is ±2.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
The research presented from Barna’s upcoming journal Five Questions Every Church Leader Should Ask About Digital Prayer consisted of one online study conducted September 1–15, 2020 with 1,302 U.S. adults ages 8–75. The margin of error for this sample is plus or minus 2.5 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. Researchers set quotas to obtain a minimum read-able sample by a variety of demographic factors and weighted the two samples (general population and churched adults) by gender, ethnicity, region, age, education, household income, faith and church attendance history to reflect their natural presence in the population (using U.S. Census Bureau data and historical Barna data for comparison). Partly by nature of using an online panel, these respondents are slightly more educated than the average American, but Barna researchers adjusted the representation of college-aged individuals in the weighting scheme accordingly.
U.S. adults are U.S. residents 18 and older.
Practicing Christians identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is very important in their lives and have attended church within the past month.
Churched adults / churchgoers have been to church in the last six months.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2021
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Churches Need to Look Beyond Sunday Services
Although almost a year of the pandemic has passed, many churches are only providing one option for worship. Recent Barna research on the hybrid church experience found that six in ten (60%) churched adults say that services have been the only online option offered by their church.
While Nieuwhof sympathizes with the plight of exhausted pastors, he cautions against a “slow slide into less and less effectiveness.” Instead, he and Villodas suggest more ways for churches to connect with individuals.
For Villodas’ church, New Life Fellowship, the isolation of the pandemic means that more personal outreach was essential. To make sure no congregant is left behind, his board of leaders has appointed lay deacons to check in with members on a personal level.
Small groups have been another means for providing fellowship, and Villodas has seen how they meet needs ranging from spiritual to financial. “I love hearing two weeks after the fact it happened that someone had a need, and a group of people who’ve been walking together for months or years have taken care of that need,” he says.
Congregations Seek Prayer and Contemplation, Despite Distraction
Recent data from a Barna collaboration with Alpha indicate that congregations desire more ways to pray in community. Savannah Kimberlin, Barna Group’s Director of Published Research, reports that digital group prayer is a “glimmer of hope” for churches: “There’s a general warmth towards prayer… younger generations especially love prayer and the intimate, emotional connectedness that they feel to God during prayer.”
For Villodas, online prayer meetings have become a crucial means of ministry, with members both new and old attracted to digital prayer. He suggests that “lots of people don’t know how to pray, and they need someone to model it and hold the space for them.” For individuals who are uncertain about a walk with God, group prayer can help bring them in closer.
However, Villodas worries that distracted attention may take away from church events, with individuals on the other end of a Zoom call distracted in ways that the pastor cannot see. To combat distraction, he suggests that pastors implement visual engagement in their content. “We’re in an image saturated world,” so contemplation of images can be a crucial communication tactic.