GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & More houses of worship are returning to normal operations, but in-person attendance is unchanged since fall. #PewResearch

by Justin Nortey, 3/25/22.

As COVID-19 cases continue to decline and pandemic restrictions are eased across the United States, churches and other houses of worship increasingly are holding services the way they did before the outbreak began, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. But there has not been a corresponding rise over the past six months in the share of Americans who are attending in-person services.

A line graph showing that the share of churches and other houses of worship operating as they did pre-pandemic continues to rise

… The same survey shows that attendance at in-person services – which grew steadily from July 2020 through September 2021 – has plateaued, as has the share of adults watching religious services online or on TV.

… The survey’s questions about in-person and virtual attendance can be combined to provide a sense of how many people are watching services online instead of attending in person, and how many are watching online in addition to attending in person. The Center’s survey finds that among all adults who say they typically attend services at least monthly, 36% have both attended in person and watched services digitally in the last month, while three-in-ten (31%) say they have only attended in person but not watched online or on TV in the last month.

One-in-five (21%) may still be substituting virtual attendance for in-person attendance, saying they recently have watched religious services online or on TV but have not attended in person. Just 12% of self-described regular attenders report that they have neither gone in person nor watched services virtually in the last month.

A bar chart showing that roughly one-in-five Americans who typically attend services monthly have participated virtually but not in person in the last month

Read more at … https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/03/22/more-houses-of-worship-are-returning-to-normal-operations-but-in-person-attendance-is-unchanged-since-fall/?

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & The Cure for Burnout, According to Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman: Play More. Apparently, even genius physicists experience burnout. Here’s how one overcame it.

by Jessica Stillman, Inc. Magazine, 5/6/22.

It’s official: Post-pandemic America is incredibly burned out. “According to Google Trends, which since 2004 has collected data on what the world is searching for, queries for ‘burnout’ –from work, life, and school–are at an all-time high in the US,” Quartz recently reported.

In his 1985 book Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! physicist and Nobel Laureate Richard Feynmanrecounted his own case of burnoutand explained what worked to cure him (hat tip to Kottke). His prescription is a whole lot more pleasant than a lot of advice you’ll get about rejiggering your work responsibilities or schedule: Play more.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/burnout-richard-feynman-albert-einstein.html

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & How the Great Resignation is turning into a great opportunity for leaders.

by John Connors, Fast Company Magazine, 4/27/22.

… The facts are straightforward: 68% of employees are rethinking what they want from their career.

… The Great Resignation is an opportunity to more aggressively advocate for new working models that enable new talent pools, improve company performance, and encourage people’s well-being.

As we all know, the office model for success has been relatively static since the inception of the knowledge economy post-WWII. Too many companies have abused the model and treated employees as resources to control rather than as people and lives to be optimized. But as we are learning now, the average American daily commute of 56 minutes per day, while perhaps balancing a family or caregiver responsibilities, was not high-motivation strategy.

Read more at … https://www.fastcompany.com/90745978/how-the-great-resignation-is-turning-into-a-great-opportunity-for-leaders?

TRENDS & American Bible Society finds while overall Bible reading has dramatically decreased over the last year, nearly two-thirds of people who seldom or never read the Bible indicate some curiosity toward Scripture.

American Bible Society, 4/6/22.

The American Bible Society today released the first chapter of the 12th annual State of the Bible report, which highlights cultural trends in the U.S. regarding faith and the Bible. Today’s release shows that while overall Bible reading has dramatically decreased over the last year, nearly two-thirds of people who seldom or never read the Bible indicate some curiosity toward Scripture. The first chapter, The Bible in America, is available to download atStateoftheBible.org.

“Our research clearly shows that when people read the Bible and apply its message, it brings them hope and introduces them to full life in Christ. That’s why it’s disheartening to see that millions of Americans have lost interest in the Bible. And millions more are struggling to connect Scripture to their daily lives,” said John Farquhar Plake, PhD and Director of Ministry Intelligence for American Bible Society. “We can’t tell how long this disruption will last, but we know that church leaders and other Bible advocates have a tremendous opportunity to help people in their communities understand and apply Scripture. Now is a critical time to point our neighbors to the good news of hope found in God’s Word.”

Read more at … https://news.americanbible.org/blog/entry/corporate-blog/newly-released-12th-annual-state-of-the-bible-report

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Study Shows 74 Percent of Introverts Don’t Want Full-Time Remote Work. They Want This Instead

by Jeff Steen, Inc. Magazine, 4/12/22.

… In a recent study detailed in The Wall Street Journal. In fact, they found something quite different: 82% of extroverted workers would prefer a hybrid work model, with 15% actually preferring full-time remote work. Self-described introverts, on the other hand — a whopping 74% of them — said they wanted to be in the office at least part-time.

CEOs and people leaders who are navigating our new normal should see a lesson here, namely that employee preferences aren’t as black and white as management would like.

As one introverted employee, quoted in the article, noted: “At the end of the day, I want to be home by myself, but it doesn’t mean you can’t crave other people’s company.” Indeed, as Myers-Briggs’ head of thought leadership, John Hackston, noted, the takeaway here is that new work models shouldn’t be all or none — or even as highly regulated as some managers would want. The control should land with employees.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/jeff-steen/study-shows-74-percent-of-introverts-dont-want-full-time-remote-work-they-want-this-instead.html

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & WFH? Do this one thing to retain your employees and avoid the Great Resignation by Bob Whitesel PhD

Read more at … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/wfh-do-this-one-thing-to-retain-your-employees-and-avoid-the-great-resignation/?utm_source=BLC&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=EMNA&utm_content=2022-04-07

SMALL GROUPS ONLINE & #SaddlebackChurch ‘s Online Pastor Explains How They Grew to 1k Online Small Groups. #strategy

Check out this course that can equip your small group leaders with the relevance, practicality and technology of growing online small groups in the #PostPandemicChurch.

Read more at … https://pastors.com/ask-these-9-questions-before-starting-online-small-groups/

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & People’s return to in-person worship services has stalled. There has been virtually no change in average attendance since August 2021… 1 in 4 pre-pandemic churchgoers are still missing from in-person worship services. #LifeWay

“Churches Still Recovering From Pandemic Losses” by Aaron Earls, LifeWay Research, 3/1/22

More than 8 in 10 churches have an attendance of at least half of what it was prior to the pandemic. The average U.S. Protestant church reports attendance at 74% of what it was prior to COVID-19, which means 1 in 4 pre-pandemic churchgoers are still missing from in-person worship services.

“People’s return to in-person worship services has stalled,” said McConnell. “There has been virtually no change in average attendance since August 2021. Some of this is the direct impact of COVID with people getting sick, needing to quarantine or being at high risk. But this also likely includes healthy individuals choosing to not return.”

Read more at … https://research.lifeway.com/2022/03/01/churches-still-recovering-from-pandemic-losses/

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Workplaces are in denial over how much Americans have changed. Now employees “pose the ultimate questions about death, about mortality: what is life for? What is our relationship with God?”

by Alvin Chang, The UK Guardian Newspaper, 3/21/22.

Nearly six months before Covid-19, the Yale historian Frank Snowden wrote a book about epidemics and pandemics. What he found was that these periods of suffering reshape not just how societies function, but also how humans want to spend their limited time on Earth.

“Epidemic diseases reach into the deepest levels of the human psyche,” he said in 2020. “They pose the ultimate questions about death, about mortality: what is life for? What is our relationship with God?”

Two years and a pandemic later, Snowden said Covid-19 has challenged another set of beliefs: how America is supposed to work.

Before the pandemic, Americans were already working longer hours than people in other developed nations. Perhaps it was in the spirit of the American dream – the idea that if you work hard, this country will make your sacrifices worth it. But mere days into the pandemic, it became harder to hold on to this myth.

Read more at … https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2022/mar/21/workplaces-are-in-denial-over-how-much-americans-have-changed?

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & where are people now moving? This population map will show you. #USCensus

by US Census Bureau, 3/24/22.

Metropolitan Statistical Areas

  • Growth:
    • Sixty-five percent (251 of 384) of the metro areas within the 50 states and the District of Columbia experienced population increase between 2020 and 2021.
    • Texas was home to four of the top 10 largest-gaining metro areas.
    • Sixty-three percent of metro areas had positive net domestic migration. Seeing the largest net domestic migration gains were Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ (66,850), Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX (54,319), and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL (42,089).
    • Net international migration was positive in 353 (91.9%) of metros.
    • Having gained 17,133 residents between 2020 and 2021, Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN, crossed the threshold of 2 million residents, for a total population of 2,012,476.
  • Decline:
    • Metro areas with notable numeric population declines between 2020 and 2021 were San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA (-116,385) and Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI (-91,671).
    • Lake Charles, LA (-5.3%), Odessa, TX (-2.6%) and San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA (-2.5%) had the largest percent decreases in population.

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & For many immunosuppressed, churches stopped being a safe place

by Sarah Pulliam Bailey, The Washington Post, February 27, 2022.

For centuries, Christians have met in sacred places that also provided safety for those seeking asylum, including runaway slaves and undocumented immigrants. But those same sanctuaries where many sing and embrace each other have become anxiety-inducing, and possibly dangerous, for many Americans who are considered higher risk for covid-19.

More than 7 million Americans have weakened immune systems that make them more vulnerable to contracting the coronavirus and can make covid-19 more deadly. Many have chosen to stay home. Those who are immunocompromised include people with medical conditions that weaken their immune response, as well as people taking immune-suppressing drugs because of cancer, organ transplants or autoimmune diseases.

As states across the country are lifting covid-19 precautions such as mask mandates and some churches have dropped online services, the immunocompromised are weighing their risk of possible exposure in worship services. And some are finding their fellow parishioners and church leaders aren’t taking measures to protect them.

Read more at … https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2022/02/27/immunocompromised-covid-church-high-risk/?

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Houses of Worship Face Clergy Shortage as Many Resign During Pandemic. #WallStreetJournal #LeadingInLiminalTimes

by Ian Lovett, Wall Street Journal, Feb. 21, 2022.

…For eight years, Keith Mudiappa accepted the challenges of serving as pastor at his nondenominational Minneapolis church—the 70-hour workweeks, the low pay, the calls from parishioners at all hours—in exchange for the joy of seeing people come to the faith.

But the rewards of the job were tough to come by during nearly two years of online-only services. Late last year, Mr. Mudiappa quit and moved with his wife and children to Florida. He now works at a bank.

Read more at … https://www.wsj.com/articles/houses-of-worship-face-clergy-shortage-as-many-resign-during-pandemic-11645452000?

SUFFERING & Few Americans Blame God or Say Faith Has Been Shaken Amid Pandemic, Other Tragedies. Most U.S. adults say bad things just happen, and that people are often the reason. #Pew #GrowingThePostPandemicChurch

Pew Research, 11/23/21.

… The new survey finds that nearly six-in-ten U.S. adults (58%) say they believe in God as described in the Bible, and an additional one-third (32%) believe there is some other higher power or spiritual force in the universe. The combined nine-in-ten Americans who believe in God or a higher power (91%) were asked a series of follow-up questions about the relationship between God and human suffering. (Those who do not believe in God or any higher power were not asked these questions.)

A large majority of U.S. adults (80%) are believers who say that most of the suffering in the world comes from people rather than from God. Relatedly, about seven-in-ten say that in general, human beings are free to act in ways that go against the plans of God or a higher power. At the same time, half of all U.S. adults (or 56% of believers) also endorse the idea that God chooses “not to stop the suffering in the world because it is part of a larger plan.”

Meanwhile, 44% of all U.S. adults (48% of believers) say the notion that “Satan is responsible for most of the suffering in the world” reflects their views either “very well” or “somewhat well,” with Protestants in the evangelical and historically Black traditions especially likely to take this position.

Most Americans say the suffering in the world comes from people – not God

By comparison, relatively few Americans seem to question their religious beliefs because human suffering exists. For instance, 14% of U.S. adults overall (or 15% of believers) affirm that “sometimes I think the suffering in the world is an indication that there is no God.” Results are similar on questions about whether suffering has caused Americans to doubt that God is all-powerful or entirely loving.

In addition, fewer than one-in-five U.S. adults are believers who say they often (3%) or sometimes (14%) get angry with God “for allowing so much suffering.” And relatively small numbers view the suffering in the world as a punishment from God: Just 4% of U.S. adults overall are believers who say “all or most” suffering is a punishment from God, and 18% say “some” of it is. The remainder say that “only a little” (22%) or “none at all” (46%) of the suffering in the world is punishment from God, or they don’t believe in God or any higher power (9%).

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2021/11/23/few-americans-blame-god-or-say-faith-has-been-shaken-amid-pandemic-other-tragedies/

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Quitting online church is abandoning the one for the 99. #PhysicallyChallenged

by Shannon Dingle, Religion News Service, 2/2/22.

… COVID-19 proved to be the catalyst for such change. Churches began shifting to online models en masse, to keep people safe from a deadly virus. As weeks passed and we could see that this new normal wasn’t leaving anytime soon, church leaders began moving their faith communities online.

Disabled people who had begged for more accessible models of ministry, who had been told online church wasn’t possible, watched as their requested accommodations became realities. While we were excited to finally be able to engage with our churches through new programs, our pain was undeniable.

Jesus tells a parable, recorded in Luke 15 and Matthew 18, known as the parable of the lost sheep. In it, a shepherd has 100 sheep and one goes missing. The good shepherd goes after the one lost sheep and brings it back to the other 99 with a spirit of joy and celebration. But is that a cute story we read like pure fiction, or do we believe it?

Consider, for a moment, that the story is one disabled person and 99 abled people, and instead of a field, the setting is a church. When one needed to be able to participate in the community of believers from home or a hospital using technology, we in the church stuck with the 99. Those virtual church options that were called impossible for the one became possible when COVID-19 safety measures, like not meeting in person, were necessary for the remaining 99 as well. The accommodation was never impossible for the one. We made a choice that the 99 abled people were worthy of such an option becoming available, which revealed what we believed about the one disabled person: They alone were not worthy, not in how church worked prior to the pandemic.

Now, as churches reopen their in-person services, the inclusive hybrid model can finally work, right?

Yes, but some people don’t want it that way. This past weekend Tish Harrison Warren, a priest in the conservative sect of Anglican churches and an opinion writer for The New York Times, argued for the end of online church, even though she acknowledged the practice would re-marginalize some members who have been included by online worship connection.

… According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26% of adults are disabled. One in 10 adults age 18 and older — and double that for those 65 and older — have a disability that impacts one or more areas of functioning enough to require support from others. We know COVID-19 disproportionately harms people with medical vulnerabilities, and some people who need to stay home to avoid COVID also stay home for part or all of flu season, in addition to hospitalizations, surgeries, sleep disorders and other circumstances preventing church attendance.

The most important fact we keep overlooking in these debates, though, is that disabled people are more likely to have those conditions that make COVID-19 the riskiest: three times more likely to have heart disease, twice as likely to have diabetes and the most likely to be immunodeficient by nature or due to medications. Relatedly, disabled people experience higher rates of poverty, less stable employment and lower rates of both driving and having access to a vehicle to drive than abled people do — all of which hinder church attendance as well.

Given those statistics, we aren’t talking about one lost sheep but more like 10 or 20 lost out of every 100. With online church, disabled people — including me and my family — were welcomed to church in more ways and more often than ever before. Let’s keep that up rather than shouting, “Hey, Jesus, we’re gonna take that one you brought back and throw them to the elements and predators! We’re going back to the way it was.”

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2022/02/02/quitting-online-church-is-abandoning-the-one-for-the-99/?

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & As COVID-19 Death Tolls Rise, More Americans Want Religious Funerals

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: one of the results of previous pandemics throughout history was an increased interest in our eternal destiny (heaven, hell and judgement). I pointed out in my book it’s important for churches to address these questions now. Focus more of your preaching and teaching on these topics to meet the needs of the post-pandemic population.

Here’s a reminder from some recent research that the topic of the afterlife is increasingly important to people in a post pandemic period.

As COVID-19 Death Tolls Rise, More Americans Want Religious Funerals

The trend toward secular memorials reverses for the first time in a decade.

by DANIEL SILLIMAN|CHRISTIANITY TODAY, DECEMBER 13, 2021.

Death abounded in America in 2020 and 2021. According to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 570,000 more people died in 2020 than in 2019, with about 350,000 of those attributable to COVID-19. Another 350,000 people died from the coronavirus by the fall of 2021, bringing the death total to 700,000—and counting.

When roughly that number died over the four years of the Civil War, it had a widespread impact on American culture. Historians such as Drew Gilpin Faust, author of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, say changesincluded increased attention to cemeteries, the rise in the importance of family photographs, and rapid growth in the popularity of practices of spiritualism, a new religious movement that claimed to help people communicate with the dead.

What impact today’s pandemic deaths will have on American culture remains to be seen. But one shift is notable now: The percentage of people age 40 and older who say that religion is “very important” in the funeral of a loved one has gone up for the first time in a decade.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2022/january-february/religious-funerals-rise-covid-memorial-study.html?

Latest Research: Congregations Respond to Pandemic With Extraordinary Social Outreach, Dec. 2021. #HartfordSeminary #GrowingThePostPandemicChurch

Hartford Institute for Religion Research, 12/21.

Just in time for the holiday season, the Hartford Institute for Religion Research has released its second reportexamining how U.S. congregations are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and findings this time show most churches are embracing new and innovative ministry opportunities.

One congregation, for example, helped fund a food truck that was donated to a school to provide a mobile feeding center for a low-income community. Another launched a Memory Café, which provides a monthly social opportunity for anyone with dementia and their care partners. Another of our survey respondents said their church went from a monthly sandwich-making ministry to feeding up to 1,200 people per week.

This report is based on data from the second survey of the Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations: Innovation Amidst and Beyond Covid-19project, which includes an over-sampling of eight denominational groups and a random sampling of congregations in other denominations for a total of 38 Christian denominational groups and 820 responses and was conducted in November. It is part of a collaborative, five-year research project funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and led by the Hartford Institute for Religion Researchat Hartford International University for Religion and Peace.

The survey also showed that since the pandemic began, 45% of congregations have made permanent changes to their community outreach, and more than half (54%) started a new ministry or expanded and increased an existing one.

Read more at … https://www.covidreligionresearch.org/research/national-survey-research/extraordinary-social-outreach-in-a-time-of-crisis/

CLOSURE & ‘Go in peace’: US church founded in 1800 holds last service. #AP #GrowingThePostPandemicChurch

BELLEFONTE, Pa. (AP) 12/26/21 — A Pennsylvania church with a 221-year history held its final service and is scheduled to close at the end of the year because of declining membership and attendance.

The First Presbyterian Church of Bellefonte, which is nearly as old as the borough itself, held the final scheduled service on Christmas Eve after having welcomed generations of families over the course of more than two centuries.

“There’s just such a love among this congregation. We’ve all known each other so long and we know each other’s foibles,” church elder Candace Dannaker told the Centre Daily Times. “I’ll miss our personality, our laughter and our joy in just being together. And, of course, the faith aspect of sharing that with other like-minded people.”

Dannaker estimated the church had about 40 members before the pandemic, a number that is down to about 25, and had no in-person worship from March 2020 until Easter Sunday. When Dannaker joined 34 years ago, she said, there were about 200 people in attendance then.

Pam Benson, 77, a member for 73 years, said that when she was born during World War II, many businesses were closed Sunday and few events were scheduled… Benson said. “It’s just change, it’s progression. It’s what happens. Not that I like it, but it is what it is.”

The 15,000-square-foot church is scheduled to close for the last time Dec. 31. Dannaker said the future of the building hasn’t been determined.

Video of the final service posted on the church’s Facebook site included references to “the pain of saying goodbye to one another” but a reminder that “challenges aren’t anything new to humanity” and saying the Christmas message of hope “is just as timely and essential today as it was 2,000 years ago.”

Before the final hymn, members lit and raised candles to these words: “And the light has splintered the darkness. And hope is ours once more. And this light does call us forward, remembering the past, and walking confidently into the future. And now go in the peace of Christ.”

Read more at … https://news.yahoo.com/peace-us-church-founded-1800-155717157.html

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & #SundayChurchHacks: As a staff, review together the previous weekend’s streamed service. When all leaders are involved, corrections can be made quickly. Remember, missteps can inadvertently give online attendees a sense of being overlooked, if not second-class.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: As part of most consultations I analyze the online and onsite services. I then provide a confidential report to the senior leader or executive leadership team. On many occasions I find that online services have become an afterthought, inadvertently giving online attendees a less than fulfilling experience.

Solution:

Each week as a staff, review the previous weekend’s streamed service. Often churches use videos to augment the sermon and worship. Unfortunately, many times the videos are not viewable online. This inadvertently gives online attendees a sense of being overlooked, if not second-class. Such missteps can easily be overcome by a weekly staff review of the streamed service. And if all leaders are involved in the review, corrections can be made quickly.

For more Sunday Church Hacks: