HARRISBURG, Pa. (BRN)–In June, the Baptist Resource Network sent out a survey to 312 churches across Pennsylvania and South Jersey to find out how they have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic. The 12 questions examined how they improvised during the lockdowns, how the pandemic has impacted their membership, and what their plans are for the future.

The survey, which included a 40% response from all our churches, by and large revealed over 41% of churches  (52 of 125 churches) who entered into some form of online worship for the first time, compared to the 47.2% (59 of 125 churches) who continued their online service offering, through continued livestreaming or posting of prerecorded content. Around 11% of the churches who responded did not offer any type of online worship, but instead used phone technologies or something else.

That means, over 50% of the churches who responded jumped into using new technology to reach their church members.

And as a result, many churches saw an increase in attendance.

During the pandemic, 44 churches (35.2%) reported “significantly more” attendance online than their previous Sunday morning experience, with 22 churches (17.6%) experiencing a “little more” and 23 churches (18.4%) experiencing the “same as before.” Twenty-four churches (19.2%) experienced a decline in attendance.

Concerning church giving, 48 (38.4%) of responding churches indicated their offerings have stayed about the same. Thirty-seven churches (29.6%) said their offerings have increased, while 40 churches (32%) said their offerings declined.

At the time of the survey, 40 churches (32%) indicated they had not resumed in-person gatherings yet while 85 churches have met, 45 (36%) with no limits on attendance and 40 (32%) with some limitations.

Churches also shared their future plans after the social-distancing guidelines end, as follows: 83 (66.4%) will continue livestreaming their services; 73 (58.4%) will continue online giving; 40 (32%) will continue their Zoom Sunday school/small group gatherings; 13 (10.4%) will continue pre-recording/recording their services; and 11 (8.8%) will continue outdoor or drive-in services. Another 20 churches (16%) said they will do none of the above.

The survey also showed that 78 of the respondents attended at least one of the Zoom Roundtables offered by the Baptist Resource Network, and 87 read and/or used the COVID-19 resources offered on www.brnunited.org.

The responding churches represented a good cross section of churches: 29.6% from urban, 28.8% from suburban, 25.6% from country and town, and 16% from rural areas.

Anecdotally, when asked what their greatest needs are at this time, many of the church leaders expressed need for wisdom and direction about reopening and outreach to the community, and prayer for faithfulness of attenders, protection of members, and personal emotional and spiritual health. Many expressed concern about how exhausted they feel and about the lack of finances to upgrade equipment as needed.

The Baptist Resource Network remains committed to caring for church pastors. We are also concerned about the fatigue experienced by these church leaders.

We will soon host a webinar on how to combat compassion fatigue and help you better prevent and manage this secondary traumatic stress. Please stay tuned for more information coming soon.