US churchgoers are less likely to be involved in a small group now than before the pandemic, new data from Lifeway Research has shown.
Small group participation is seen in many churches as an important activity in personal discipleship and spiritual development.
The Lifeway study of 1,000 American Protestant churchgoers found that the pandemic impacted small group participation.
In January 2020, before the pandemic reached the US, 52% of churchgoers said they were a participant in a small group.
But in January 2021, only 37% said the same. This is despite nearly three-quarters (71%) of those surveyed saying their church communicates the importance of being involved in one.
Over a quarter (29%) of those not participating by January 2021 said it was because their church was not offering any small group. A third (34%) said they were not involved even though their church was offering one.
In terms of age, young adults aged 18 to 29 were the most likely to say they were involved in a small group before the pandemic (68%). Those aged 65 and above were the most likely to say they did not participate in a small group prior to Covid-19.
There were clear differences along racial lines, with African Americans (62%) far more likely than white churchgoers (48%) to say they were participants in a small group before the pandemic struck.