A fifth of Christians have skipped church during the pandemic - survey

Churches moved online after the start of the pandemic but Barna research suggests not all their congregants followed them.(Photo: Unsplash/Jesus Loves Austin)

A significant proportion of Christians haven't attended a church service since the start of the pandemic, fresh research finds.

The study by Barna found that a fifth of practising Christians (19%) said they never attended a service during the pandemic, whether in person or online. 

Similarly, just over a fifth (22%) of "churched" adults - classed by Barna as those who sometimes went to church - have not joined a service since the outbreak of coronavirus. 

Both groups reported attending church at least once a month in the six months leading up to the pandemic. 

The survey was carried out on 1,302 American adults in September.

Barna said the findings indicate that churches need to think of ways to make their online services feel like more than a sermon. 

It suggested that a "more holistic strategy for digital or hybrid ministry is needed for the long term."

"With overly optimistic or unclear ideas of how churchgoers are engaged in online services—typically the only digital option churches provide—pandemic-era pastoring may be largely devoid of meaningful touchpoints with congregants," it warned.

"This grey area surrounding online attendance is an urgent challenge of digital and hybrid ministry and underscores the need for more than streamed services."