It has become abundantly clear that how we worship and give today looks very different than before COVID. While the majority of churches have returned to some form of in-person services, few have been able to attract more than a third of their pre-COVID attendance. There are a number of reasons for this.
- A large number of households still do not feel comfortable returning because of COVID.
- Online worship is more attractive than the socially distanced options available today.
- Others have learned they generally prefer the online worship offered at their church or the new church they are now attending.
- For some, what drew them to a weekend worship service was their connection to a Sunday School, small group or serving in a ministry that has not yet fully returned.
- Many churches have discovered 10-15% of the least connected households have just drifted away, having gotten out of the habit of attending worship. It is this group that most needs connection to a small group or an active ministry for their children and students to “reconnect.”
While most of these reasons are COVID related, I believe there is a strong case for continuing to invest in and promote both online worship and on-demand streaming worship, even when COVID is no longer impacting attendance. Here are a few I believe are to be important.
Attracting New Visitors
Church shopping online will continue to be the primary means of choosing a church. Even before the pandemic, the majority of first-time visitors worshiped with a church online before they visited in person.
Many Regular Churchgoers Prefer Online Worship
While most regular churchgoers say in-person worship will still be their primary method of worship, between 10-25% typically report they prefer online. Even among those who prefer in-person worship, a large percentage have a positive view of worshiping online and the convenience of an on-demand option. This means online worship is not just a substitute for when they are sick or out of town. I believe this trend will continue for the foreseeable future, driven by a growing acceptance of video when connecting with friends, family, co-workers, and the investment leading churches are making to curate engaging and worshipful online experiences.
Increasing the Frequency of Worship Attendance
The number of times the average church member attends worship in-person has been declining for over 50 years. I believe it is extremely likely that this trend will continue. Growing churches are not only continuing to offer in-person, but are also actively promoting live streaming and on-demand (watching a recording during the week) worship. A strategy of promoting worship attendance in all of its forms (in-person, online, and on-demand) increases how many times the average household participates in worship each month, which is critical to both growing disciples and funding ministry.
Households that attend worship two times or more per month give about twice the percentage of their income as those who attend once per month, according to a recent study in one of the nation’s largest Protestant churches. When your church communicates attending worship (in-person, online, and on-demand) is a critical step in your discipleship path, giving will increase as attendance does.
Providing and promoting engaging online and on-demand worship is one of the most effective ways to grow the number of new visitors, increase average attendance, and grow giving. Are you taking advantage of this opportunity in your church? It is the future for most growing churches and the future is now.