Since our country’s national response to the COVID-19 pandemic earlier this year, Barna has kept a close eye on Americans’ attitudes toward gathering for worship, whether in-person or digitally. In Six Questions About the Future of the Hybrid Church Experience, a new Barna journal, recent data highlight a sobering downward trend in Americans’ church attendance right now, particularly among practicing Christians who attended church weekly pre-pandemic (79% vs. 51% currently).
While many churches have re-opened since the nationwide shut down in March, the logistics—and perhaps necessity—of hybrid church (combination of in-person and digital) is something pastors remain curious about. What does it mean to offer both in-person and digital experiences? How can these experiences be just as impactful online as they are in person?
More than one-third of adults who’ve attended church and engaged with online services during the pandemic (36%) says they have trouble focusing during said services. This is especially true for those with children in the home (41% vs. 33% of attendees without kids in the home say they struggle to focus), hinting at some of the difficulty guardians may face as they try to simultaneously facilitate their household’s church attendance, occupy children and youth and still engage in worship themselves.
To help pastors and their teams combat this challenge and continue to encourage engagement for those who are viewing virtually, Mark Matlock, Barna’s Insights Director and President of WisdomWorks, offers three digital lenses to keep in mind when converting live services to a digital context: value, engagement and time and space.
While it’s easy to measure engagement and receive feedback for in-person services, digital sermons and church events present a host of new challenges to think through. Taking the time to walk through the three lenses value, engagement and time and space can help church leaders answer key questions about how their people are experiencing digital services and what needs to change in order to strengthen participation and discipleship in these virtual spaces.
View the full presentation on these three lenses, plus so much more, on Barna Access Plus. Click here to learn more about Barna’s Digital Church channel—a list of content specifically curated to help pastors and teams navigate the digital or hybrid church space they currently find themselves in.
Interested in more interesting findings related to church attendance right now? Check out this blog written by Carey Nieuwhof on the Generational Preferences for In-Person Worship Post-COVID.
About the Research
The research presented for Barna’s 2019 study was conducted online from December 5 to 18, 2019. In total, 1,606 interviews were conducted, including 1,000 from the general population and 794 among practicing Christians (188 of which were included in the general population interviews). The sample error for the general populations (n=1,000) is ±2.9 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The sample error for practicing Christians (n=794) is ±3.3 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
The research presented for Barna’s 2020 study was conducted online from September 1 to15, 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.
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 research 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, 2020