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How Covid-19 Has Affected Families' Church Attendance

As I connect with churches across the country in this period of Covid-19, one thing they all have in common is this - some of their families have dropped out of church and have not returned yet.

And for families who have returned to church, they are not attending as often as they did pre-covid.

Up to this point, a big percentage of churches are seeing their attendance go down by as much as 50%.

An example. I was recently conversing with a church that had over 3,000 people attending before Covid-19. Now they have around 1,000 people attending.

Here are some more interesting findings from the Barna group.

  • 1/3 of practicing Christians are still only attending their pre-covid church.

  • 53% say they have streamed their regular church online within the past four weeks.

  • 34% admit to streaming a different church service online other than their own, essentially “church hopping” digitally.

  • 32% says they have done neither of these things. They have stopped attending church altogether.

  • A small percentage (14%) of believers have made a church switch during the pandemic.

  • 18% of practicing Christians are viewing worship services online from multiple churches.

What about the Millennials? These are the parents of the Gen Z and Gen Alpha kids in your ministry. So this would be the attendance pattern of the Millennial's children as well.

  • 50% say they have not attended church in the last 4 weeks.

  • 30% have stayed at the same church.

  • 8% have switched churches.

Will these changes stay this way long-term? Only time will tell. But I do know this. If we are going to reach and disciple the next generation effectively, I believe it will still be done through the local church and parents who faithfully invest in their children and help them stay connected to a local church.

The local church is plan A. There is no plan B. When people drop out of church, they often never return. So this gives room for some serious discussions about how we will encourage families with kids to return to church in person and see them attending faithfully. Here are a few strategies that can help you rebuild.

Identify families who are only attending once every 4-6 weeks. Use a personal phone call, email or a private message on social media to encourage them to become better connected. BTW - getting people connected to a serving position or in a small group, will help them attend more frequently.

Get kids excited about coming more often. I remember one Sunday, a family came in and I was talking with the father. He said to me, "Yeah...I wanted to stay home today and just watch online, but my daughter wanted to come to her small group in person. She keep bugging me about it, so here we are." Here are some more tips on how to get kids excited about coming to church.

Stay connected with families on social media. Social media done well can help families stay connected to their church and more likely to return in person. Publicize ways the church is serving the community by posting updates and pictures on social media.

Remind families that Hebrews 10:25 is still in the Bible. "Don't forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as some are in the habit of doing."

There are some things that watching online simply can't replicate. Worshiping together with other believers. Praying together. Seeing people come to Christ. Praying with friends. Simply hanging out and fellowshipping after the service.

We must help families see that we are designed to be in relationship with others. Especially as believers. We are not designed to walk on the Christian journey alone. Rather, we are to be up close and in person. We are not designed to be in a "long distance relationship" with our church. If we want our families to grow their relationship with Jesus, then attending church in person must be a priority.

Set a good example for the kiddos. We must remember that many times children, do what their parents did as adults. If their parents attended church faithfully, then kids tend to grow up and go to church faithfully. If parent's attend sporadically, when their children grow up, the children will also be sporadic in their attendance patterns.

If we really believe that being part of a local church is a critical part of a believer's life, then we need to show our children by our words and attendance patterns. Let families know about the precautions you are taking. Many families haven't returned to church for the simple reason they are worried about catching Covid-19 at church. I have seen this personally happen. My father, went to speak at a church and the attendees in the service were not wearing masks. He caught the virus at that church and almost died from it. He was in ICU for 3 weeks. Thankfully, he made it through it. It was a stark reminder to our family that safety precautions must be taken seriously. Clearly communicate to families how you are cleaning and sterilizing the areas the children will be in. This will help alleviate any fears they may have about returning.

Your turn. How has your experience been?

What percentage of families have returned?

What are you doing to encourage families to return to the physical church? How are you communicating with parents about the safety precautions you are following?

Share your thoughts and comments in the comment section below.


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