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Calvary Baptist Church, Easton, PA.

Nearly half of pastors hope to be back in churches by May

Nearly half (47 percent) of pastors hope to be back in their churches by May, according to a new Barna survey. However, an increasing number are shifting their expectations to later this summer compared to previous surveys.

President Donald Trump has said that opening up churches is important to the nation and has repeatedly brought up faith during daily press briefings.

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Forty-two percent said they are doing “very good”; 44 percent “good”; and 14 percent “OK.” Just 1 percent answered “poor.” To the best of their knowledge, exactly one in 10 pastors (10 percent) reported that the people in their church are doing “very good,” while another seven in 10 (68 percent) said their congregants are doing “good.” Nearly a quarter of U.S. clergy (23 percent) reported their people are “OK.”

Leading up to the first digital Easter, pastors and churches seemed to be settling into being separated physically during Sunday services but together in spirit. Since Barna began tracking churches’ virtual attendance four weeks ago, pastors have continued to report an upward trend in virtual attendance when compared to regular (in-person) attendance.

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Forty percent of church leaders said attendance had increased (23 percent much higher, 26 percent higher). Three in 10 (30 percent) report attendance was lower than usual (10 percent much less, 20 percent slightly less) and 12 percent said it was about the same. Currently, 3 percent of pastors said their church doesn’t stream or offer their services online, while another 6 percent report being unsure how virtual attendance compared to in-person participation.

Since national social-distancing guidelines were put in place at the beginning of April, and many more were set locally before then, pastors have reported that financial giving has decreased. Whether because of the unprecedented toll COVID-19 disruptions have taken on congregants’ finances or because the reminder of the offering plate isn’t visible, church giving has continued to trend low over the past month.

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice