Just over a year ago, the federal government declared a state of emergency because of the Covid pandemic. Almost immediately, Americans began to remain in their homes and traditional public activities such as in-person church services began to be replaced with streaming media. For the most part, people have adapted well. As restrictions were lifted, they began to resume more of the familiar aspects of life.
Recent research from the Barna Group offers insight into the effects the pandemic has had on churches and churchgoers alike.
After a year, pastors and church leaders continue to fine-tune their ministries. One conclusion from the research is that practicing Christians appreciate having new ways to worship. About 63 percent hope their churches will maintain their digital efforts after the pandemic ends.
How have those church members handled the pandemic? It should come as no surprise that months after the initial panic, nearly two-thirds of practicing Christians reported moderate to high levels of anxiety. The good news is just under half of those surveyed reported generally being as satisfied with their emotional and mental well-being as they were before the pandemic. In fact, a quarter of Christians reporting being even more satisfied with their mental and emotional well-being as a result of Covid, compared to just 15 percent of American adults.
Most survey participants said they had altered, skipped, or canceled major events because of the pandemic, and half of employed adults were working from home at least part of the time. More than a third of practicing Christians reported satisfaction with their work-life balance, compared to just about a fifth of adults overall.
So what does that say to churches? First, while nobody is immune to anxiety and similar responses, it would appear that a strong relationship with a church plays a significant role in personal satisfaction and well-being. Second, Covid has changed people’s conceptions of work, social life, and church. Church leaders who think of their streaming and other digital efforts as “temporary” strategies need to take a longer-term look at finding the best ways to connect with people’s lives. We may not consider attending a service online as powerful as in-person attendance, but that’s secondary to whether our message is connecting with our members and the community.
Covid presented many negative challenges, but in the long run, it may have sharpened our ability to connect with those we serve. And if some of those you serve need help dealing with mental issues related to Covid, invite them to sit down with one of our counselors.
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Teresa Haskins is one of Care to Change’s professional team members. A pastor’s wife and therapist, she has worked with teens, young married couples, and parents.