DRIVE TIMES & Baylor University researchers discover most churchgoers will only drive less than 15 minutes to a church. #BaylorUniversity #GrowingThePostPandemicChurch #Seminar

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Previously geography dictated a church’s size and potential for growth as per this research on face-to-face churchgoers.  

Not any more.

Now churches everywhere can overcome the “geographic wall” to attendance by developing their online ministry. In my book Growing the Post-pandemic Church I list tools and plans to accomplish this.

Drive times to church for face-to-face attendees are:

5 min or less = 21 %

6 – 15 min = 47 %. 

16 – 30 min = 22% 

30+ min = 9 %.

AMERICAN VALUES, MENTAL HEALTH, AND USING TECHNOLOGY IN THE AGE OF TRUMP, Findings from “Church Commuting” by Kevin D. Dougherty, Baylor Religion Survey, Wave 5 , 9/2017 (https://www.baylor.edu/baylorreligionsurvey/doc.php/292546.pdf)

Find more ideas in the book Growing the Post-pandemic Church available in paperback and Kindle …

https://www.amazon.com/Growing-Post-pandemic-Church-Leadership-church-Guides/dp/B08FK8VMWS

#GPPCseminar

#GPPC

The #Post-PandemicChurch & Scientists Confirm the Power of In-Person Gatherings.

By Mya Jaradat, 7/18/21, Deseret News.

… However, now that it’s safe for many Americans to return to in-person worship, some religion experts are questioning why virtual church enthusiasts want to remain online. Online worship can be gratifying, but, both spiritually and sociologically, it often leaves something to be desired, said Dr. Andrew Newberg, a physician and neuroscientist who studies religious experiences.

“From what we know in general about how the brain works there is a kind of resonance that occurs when we’re with other people,” said Newberg, a pioneer in neurotheology. “The brain is designed to be social.”

Newberg pointed to the power of sacred architecture to illustrate his point. “If you walk into the Vatican — I don’t care what religion (you are) — when you walk into the Vatican, it’s hard not to feel something because of its grandeur,” he said. 

Even smaller houses of worship create a sense of awe, he added, noting that vaulted ceilings contribute to a feeling of “spacelessness” in the brain — a sensation that might help us feel a little less connected to our earthly concerns and more connected to the people around us and God. 

Seeing the Vatican through a screen, Newberg added, doesn’t pack the same neurological punch, in part because other sensory cues, like smell, are missing. Online worship, no matter how well it’s done, likely can’t affect us as deeply as in-person church does, he said. 

Dr. Harold Koenig, a psychiatrist and the director of Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, said that while researchers still don’t know exactly what accounts for the potency of in-person, group worship — “the research is a little behind there,” he said — it probably activates circuitry in the brain’s reward pathway. Neurotransmitters like serotonin, epinephrine and dopamine are likely involved, he said.

Research has also shown that being with a group — particularly when that group is engaged in some sort of activity that makes a positive contribution to society, like volunteering — leads to physiological changes that create a feeling of warmth. The metaphorical warmth that stems from being with others “has a physiological basis,” Koenig said.

Prior to COVID-19, almost all in-person services incorporated some element of touch, as well, which also creates a sense of well-being, he added.

“As a psychiatrist, even though we’ve got COVID-19, I always touch (my patients) when they leave the room. That physical touch is critical,” Koenig said.

In general, face-to-face interactions and group activities, including worship, create “collective effervescence,” wrote Adam Grant recently in The New York Times, using a coin termed by the famed French sociologist Émile Durkheim. Take the collective out — or put it behind a screen — and the experience is flattened.

However, Newberg noted that religious believers who live in isolation, like some monks and nuns, certainly do have religious experiences. So while the in-person, group aspect of worship is important, it’s not essential. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a religious experience.

Similarly, Teresa Berger, a professor of liturgical studies and Catholic theology at Yale Divinity School, said just because someone comes to an in-person worship service doesn’t mean they’re mentally engaged.

“Some of them, quite honestly, in their minds are going to be elsewhere,” she said.

Theologically speaking, Berger added, “The decisive element is a community gathered — and I don’t mean gathered only physically but gathered in a multitude of ways, some of them could be digitally mediated — around seeking to encounter a divine presence.”

Read more at … https://www.deseret.com/faith/2021/7/18/22575707/are-churches-done-with-buildings-online-virtual-worship-congregations-covid-19-pandemic

CHURCH PLANTING & These #Post-Pandemic Churches are done with buildings. Here’s why.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Almost 15 years ago when analyzing healthy planted churches, I found that most planted churches preferred to lease or rent their space rather than build buildings. This freed them up for flexibility and to put their financial resources into meeting the needs of others. I’ve been a big advocate of this since the award-winning book of mine was published by Abingdon Press: Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations.

Here’s another article that confirms the continued importance of growing the post-pandemic church by utilizing non-facility-based community. After all, churches are people, not a facility.

by Mya Jaradat, 7/18/21, Deseret News.

…Being online means being unencumbered by financial concerns that come with maintaining a facility, he said, noting that the congregation is free to focus on values — like social justice and spiritual formation — rather than the bottom line. It’s also allowed the group to attract worshippers who wouldn’t be able to attend in person, including people from California, London and Australia, the Rev. Whang said.

“A church is a network of relationships,” he said. “It’s the people,” not where they meet.

… However, now that it’s safe for many Americans to return to in-person worship, some religion experts are questioning why virtual church enthusiasts want to remain online. Online worship can be gratifying, but, both spiritually and sociologically, it often leaves something to be desired, said Dr. Andrew Newberg, a physician and neuroscientist who studies religious experiences.

“From what we know in general about how the brain works there is a kind of resonance that occurs when we’re with other people,” said Newberg, a pioneer in neurotheology. “The brain is designed to be social.”

… The power of in-person church

Newberg pointed to the power of sacred architecture to illustrate his point. “If you walk into the Vatican — I don’t care what religion (you are) — when you walk into the Vatican, it’s hard not to feel something because of its grandeur,” he said.

Even smaller houses of worship create a sense of awe, he added, noting that vaulted ceilings contribute to a feeling of “spacelessness” in the brain — a sensation that might help us feel a little less connected to our earthly concerns and more connected to the people around us and God.

Seeing the Vatican through a screen, Newberg added, doesn’t pack the same neurological punch, in part because other sensory cues, like smell, are missing. Online worship, no matter how well it’s done, likely can’t affect us as deeply as in-person church does, he said.

Dr. Harold Koenig, a psychiatrist and the director of Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health, said that while researchers still don’t know exactly what accounts for the potency of in-person, group worship — “the research is a little behind there,” he said — it probably activates circuitry in the brain’s reward pathway. Neurotransmitters like serotonin, epinephrine and dopamine are likely involved, he said. 

Research has also shown that being with a group — particularly when that group is engaged in some sort of activity that makes a positive contribution to society, like volunteering — leads to physiological changes that create a feeling of warmth. The metaphorical warmth that stems from being with others “has a physiological basis,” Koenig said. 

Prior to COVID-19, almost all in-person services incorporated some element of touch, as well, which also creates a sense of well-being, he added. 

“As a psychiatrist, even though we’ve got COVID-19, I always touch (my patients) when they leave the room. That physical touch is critical,” Koenig said. 

In general, face-to-face interactions and group activities, including worship, create “collective effervescence,” wrote Adam Grant recently in The New York Times, using a coin termed by the famed French sociologist Émile Durkheim. Take the collective out — or put it behind a screen — and the experience is flattened. 

However, Newberg noted that religious believers who live in isolation, like some monks and nuns, certainly do have religious experiences. So while the in-person, group aspect of worship is important, it’s not essential. There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a religious experience. 

Similarly, Teresa Berger, a professor of liturgical studies and Catholic theology at Yale Divinity School, said just because someone comes to an in-person worship service doesn’t mean they’re mentally engaged. 

“Some of them, quite honestly, in their minds are going to be elsewhere,” she said. 

Theologically speaking, Berger added, “The decisive element is a community gathered — and I don’t mean gathered only physically but gathered in a multitude of ways, some of them could be digitally mediated — around seeking to encounter a divine presence.”

Read more at … https://www.deseret.com/faith/2021/7/18/22575707/are-churches-done-with-buildings-online-virtual-worship-congregations-covid-19-pandemic

POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & 4 out of 5 churches have returned to in-person services, with attendance levels hovering around 36% of normal capacity.

by Ericka Andersen, USA Today, 3/28/21.

… Attendance at worship in decline

…How eager has the rest of the country been to file back into the pews as churches ticked open nationwide?

Not very. All but 3% of churches in the United States closed their physical doors when the pandemic began last March. As of late 2020,

…Despite the option of in-person attendance, most people still opt out. In large part, that is because of the continued danger of COVID-19, but if habit is any measure, pre-COVID attendance levels may take awhile to resume in a fully vaccinated world.

…Barna, a Christian research firm that has done extensive analysis on church trends amid COVID, found that 79% of practicing Christians went to church weekly before COVID, but that number has dropped to 51% during the pandemic. Another survey found that one in three practicing Christians nationwide had stopped attending church online or in person. When even the “church people” are skipping church, it’s bad.

…Given the data on the comprehensive good that attending religious services brings to society, pre-COVID worshippers must reprioritize faith and urge others to join them if we hope to swiftly revitalize a public oppressed by collective trauma.

As Americans make plans for a post-COVID world, putting church back on the agenda should not be overlooked as a healthy step forward.

Read more at … https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2021/03/28/how-attending-church-during-holy-week-can-boost-your-mental-health-column/4764317001/

POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & The 4 Main Themes People Engaged With the Bible in 2020 on Bible Gateway.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: It is important that while we are thinking about re-opening our churches, we also address re-orienting our ministry to unite the divisions in society. I’ve written about this in the book “Growing the post-pandemic church” in the chapter, “The one thing churches aren’t doing as they prepare to reopen: reconciliation.”

Read this article below to see what biblical topics people are searching for at this time.

Chart of the four key themes in Bible searches on Bible Gateway in 2020

Blog / The 4 Main Themes People Engaged With the Bible in 2020 on Bible Gateway

Critical news events of 2020 corresponded with extreme spikes in keyword/keyphrase searches of the Bible over 2019 on Bible Gateway—the world’s most visited Christian website—and can be grouped into the four main themes of social, pandemic, political, and end times.

[Read the Bible Gateway post, 2020 in Review]

Searches in each of the four areas occurred at least ten times more in 2020 than last year, with social-related terms searched more than 100 times following the death of George Floyd. With the ensuing and ongoing protests, Bible search terms included such topics as racism, justice, equality, and oppression, and notable Scripture verse results included “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers” (Proverbs 21:15) and “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow”(Isaiah 1:17).

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Latest Bible-Related Research]

Read more at … https://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2020/12/the-4-main-themes-people-engaged-with-the-bible-in-2020-on-bible-gateway/