Christian churches across the United States have seen accelerated turnover rates in the past two years. While these churches are beginning to see people return to worship and other events as COVID-19 waxes and wanes, they are noticing that the faces that now fill the pews are different than the ones who were there before.
All churches faced a daunting task with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many halted in person gatherings and completely adapted their programming. Amid these transitions and changes, some of the less engaged congregation members at many churches saw an opportunity to explore other church options.
Melissa Morgan Kelley of Christianity Today writes:
Member turnover is as common to the life cycle of a church as baptisms, weddings, and funerals. But the pandemic has accelerated people’s comings and goings and has required new strategies to welcome and assimilate new members into the church community. These tasks have been complicated by evolving COVID-19 precautions and the challenge of identifying who still belongs to the church, when many continue to worship online.
“Not gathering stirred up these questions,” said Steve Smith, executive pastor of Highpoint Church in Naperville, Illinois. “The gospel hasn’t changed, and we will always be Bible-centric, but how we engage people is changing.”
COVID-19 has propelled people toward life change of all kinds over the past two years, including career shifts, new relationships, and relocation. Some changes have been out of necessity and some out of new priorities; Pew found three-quarters of have seen some positive impact from the pandemic.
This has played out with church choices as well. For those who were already struggling with their church, the pandemic served as a catalyst to begin exploring other congregations. One Atlanta churchgoer said the pandemic pushed her toward change after navigating difficult social dynamics within her young adult group.
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