Survey | Many Churches Are Split on In-Person Gatherings

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Many churches are split on returning to in-person gatherings, a survey found.

Wheaton College Billy Graham Center’s Send Institute, Exponential, and the Association of Related Churches (ARC) released a study finding churches are split, about reconvening services during the pandemic.

Conducted on June 1-12, the survey was administered through an online form, receiving 767 replies from 46 states. It noted numerous churches have the capability to meet for in-person services, but 67 percent have not. Additionally, half of the churches will return to in-person worship gatherings by June but almost a third are still not sure yet about their return (28 percent).

Church leaders were asked, “Given your state’s mandates, how much of your church can potentially gather at a time for in-person corporate worship gatherings?” 

Only 6 percent responded they were in a state or a region that could not gather in-person at all. “Twenty-five percent of church leaders indicated they were able to gather up to half of their usual attendance, while only 14 percent indicated they could gather their entire congregation.”

The survey noted ministry volunteers, and the inability to interact with others reduces the value of in-person gatherings. The survey also found that a significant number of church leaders felt members are split on whether to return to in-person gatherings this summer due to the pandemic.

One pastor said in the survey that it does not “make sense to church leadership to hold worship services for only a small percentage of their congregation while risking the chance of increasing the number of coronavirus cases in their community. Their plan is to continue month by month and to continue to improve their virtual engagement, with possibly some small group meetings.”

Church leaders are planning their return to in-person worship gatherings, the survey concluded. “The return to in-person gatherings is not as simple as turning on a light switch. Many precautionary measures are being put into place to ensure health and safety for church members and the community at large.”

Corine Gatti Santillo

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