Source: Christianity Today
Overall, most churchgoers—including most white evangelicals—returned to the pews after the pandemic, survey finds.
Despite the short-term upheaval COVID-19 caused among American churches, the pandemic’s long-term effect on worship attendance patterns was minimal, according to a study released Thursday by researchers at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and the University of Chicago. The biggest exception to that trend occurred among young adults, whose church attendance took a major hit.
“Rather than completely upending established patterns, the pandemic accelerated ongoing trends in religious change,” wrote study authors Lindsay Witt-Swanson, Jennifer Benz, and Daniel Cox.
“Young people, those who are single, and self-identified liberals ceased attending religious services at all at much higher rates than other Americans did. Even before the pandemic, these groups were experiencing the most dramatic declines in religious membership, practice, and identity.”
Two-thirds (68%) of Americans reported the same level of church attendance both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet pandemic-accelerated declines among some groups left US church attendance down overall.
Before the pandemic, 75 percent of Americans reported attending religious services at least monthly. By spring 2022, that figure dropped to 68 percent attending at least monthly.
Those findings were drawn from the 2022 American Religious Benchmark Survey, which polled 9,425 Americans by phone and online between February and April 2022. To help researchers focus on pandemic-driven changes, the study included only individuals who had registered their religious affiliations and church attendance patterns in a previous survey between 2018 and March 2020.
Young adults (ages 18–29) reported the greatest change in religious attendance following the pandemic. Forty-two percent registered different levels of church attendance than they had previously. Just 35 percent of Americans ages 30–49 reported changed attendance, as did 28 percent among those ages 50–64 and 25 percent among those 65 and older.
Attendance Drops Most Among Adults Under 30
1 in 3 young adults say they go to church less than they used to pre-pandemic, a bigger portion than other groups. View Chart here.
Over the pandemic, Americans across all age groups were more apt to attend less frequently than to attend more frequently. Thirty percent of young adults dropped attendance after the pandemic, compared with 12 percent who upped it.
Twenty-four percent of Americans 30–49 decreased their attendance, while 11 percent increased it. Among adults 50–64, 19 percent decreased while 9 percent increased. The decrease and increase among Americans 65 and older were 16 percent and 9 percent, respectively.
COVID-19 may not have been the only factor driving young adults away from church. According to a Gallup poll released in December, American religion already was trending in that direction. More than a third of Americans surveyed said they have stopped attending religious services regularly in their lifetimes.
Thirty-one percent said they attend services weekly or nearly weekly now, but 67 percent reported attending with that frequency when there were growing up. Those findings are consistent with prior Gallup research “documenting steep declines in US religiosity in recent decades,” the polling organization stated.
Here’s Who Stopped Going to Church During the Pandemic – Christianity Today