We’ve All Experienced It

The list of what’s been affected by the pandemic seems endless: travel, work from home, entertainment, education, even dating.

And church…definitely church. But are all these changes temporary, or permanent? The new study The Ripple Effect: Congregations, COVID, and the Future of Church Life from Grey Matter Research and Infinity Concepts suggests long-term changes may be coming to the church world. (For a free copy of the report, simply e-mail ron@greymatterresearch.com.)

Consider that among churchgoing evangelical Protestants, nine out of ten stopped attending in-person worship services at some point during the pandemic.

The Ripple Effect: Online Church among Evangelicals

It’s Over…Isn’t It?

But no big deal, right? Now that churches are open again?

Wrong. Six out of ten evangelicals watched church services online as a result of the pandemic.  While most watched services that were streamed by their own church, three out of ten “visited” at least one different church online (mostly without financially supporting the church or churches they visited).

This online church experience may have opened up Pandora’s box. Nearly half of all evangelicals who experienced online church now believe watching online services is superior to attending in-person in at least one way.

Not only that, but only 44% of evangelicals who experienced online church during the pandemic want to return exclusively to attending in-person. That’s about 21 million evangelical adults who expect to include online church in their future worship plans.  And that includes 3.5 million who figure on watching online services primarily or exclusively.

What Happens Next?

Consider the implications for churches. Will online “attendees” provide regular financial support?  If not, what happens to already-strained church budgets? What about opportunities for fellowship, connection, leadership, and service? How might online viewership impact youth and children’s programs? Will online viewers stay connected with their local church?  Or will they surf the internet from Portland to Poughkeepsie to find something each week that captures their interest? Will churches have to devote more resources to the digital experience, rather than just the in-person experience? For the millions who want to use online services only occasionally, will that frequency eventually increase – and what happens to their church connection if it does?

Learn more in The Ripple Effect, a study of over 1,000 evangelical Protestants, exclusively from Grey Matter and Infinity Concepts. Just e-mail your request to ron@greymatterresearch.com and we’ll send you the free report.

And while you’re at it, consider how research like this can address the questions you have about your own organization’s current or potential constituents. We specialize in providing information that helps organizations make wiser decisions.

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Comment
  1. This is really interesting. And surprising!

    I think it’s a good sign!

    I do wonder, though, if there’s more to it. Are these respondents telling us how much they like their churches because they’re the ones who are still in their churches? Might be interesting to survey people who recently *stopped* participating to see how their sentiments differ. Just a thought.

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