Preaching to an empty church in the early days of the COVID crisis was jarring, to say the least.
I knew the cameras were rolling but was anyone really watching?
Losing my congregation was disheartening, even though we knew it wasn’t a permanent loss…at least not totally.
Certainly, by now, it is clear church attendance is not returning to pre-COVID numbers automatically. And perhaps some of our former weekly attendees aren’t coming back ever. The reasons aren’t exactly clear, but the fact of the matter is.
COVID didn’t introduce declining church attendance but it definitely accelerated it. The experience at my parish, and that of pastors I have spoken to recently, is that parishes are only seeing about two-thirds of their pre-COVID attendance. This behavioral change seems to be true across geographic boundaries, ideological and liturgical styles, and denominations.
We won’t be able to turn back the clock or reverse the cultural changes which seem to have taken place. But what we can control – and what will make the difference between long-term success and failure – is our response to declining or depressed attendance. In parish renewal, mindset can be just as important as methods.
Head to the brand new Rebuilt Parish Blog to hear about five common responses to declining attendance and which one will carry the church into the future: