Over half of pastors think fewer Christians will return to church pews after the pandemic is over, a new survey by Barna suggests.
Earlier this month, Barna's Church Pulse leader survey asked 422 Protestant pastors to predict the impact of Covid on church attendance.
Nearly half (46%) are expecting attendance to have "declined slightly" by the time the crisis is over. A handful are even more pessimistic, with 6% thinking it will have "declined dramatically".
The proportion of pastors predicting lower attendance has soared during the pandemic. Back in March and April, less than a fifth thought it would have "declined slightly" after Covid.
Despite their predictions around attendance, most pastors (92%) are either "very confident" or "confident" about their church surviving the pandemic.
But Barna's research suggests they may have to invest more time into discipleship, as nearly a fifth of pastors (18%) said the personal faith among members of their congregations has declined during the pandemic, a huge increase on the mere 1% of pastors who said this was the case back in March.
Last month, Barna President David Kinnaman made the gloomy prediction that at least one in five churches will not survive the pandemic.
He told NPR this was because the number of people attending is decreasing during the pandemic - and with that, church giving is also on the downturn.
"The disruptions related to giving, and maybe even as important to all that, is that even for those churches that have reopened, they're seeing much smaller numbers of people show up," Kinnaman said.
"So simply reopening a church doesn't fix the underlying economic challenges that you might have."