The Two Largest Groups Who Have Not Returned to Church Since COVID

(Unsplash)

"I really want to see all of our members return to in-person services. I really miss them."

This sentence was from a pastor in North Carolina. We were in a conversation about a church consultation. His comments quickly turned to the often-asked question today: When will our churches get back to normal?

As I have noted on several occasions, if "normal" means pre-COVID behavior, we will not return at all. We will, however, experience a new normal. We have to be ready for it when it comes.

I have notes from recent conversations with over 60 pastors. Some of the conversations were by Zoom or phone, others were interactions at Church Answers. While 60 conversations do not constitute a large sample, they do provide us some guidance on reality in churches today.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.

In that regard, we are hearing about the two largest groups who have not returned to in-person service. These groups are mentioned consistently when we hear from church leaders.

Senior Adults

The pastors with whom I spoke categorized senior adults in one of three groups: 65 and up, 70 and up, and 75 and up. The most common group noted was 70 and up.

The reasons for many of these seniors' hesitancy to return are obvious. They are one of the greatest at-risk groups for COVID. Secondly, many of them have not received both COVID vaccinations.

Families With Young Children

As a rule, parents whose children are back in school classrooms are likely to be comfortable bringing those children to in-person church gatherings. But if the child is younger than school age, the hesitancy to return is greater. The entire family typically does not return to church.

This group of non-returnees is typically not as large in number as the senior adults who have not returned. But the combination of these two groups can be a significant number in a given church.

Will They Ever Return?

The good news is that, at some point, the pandemic will abate significantly. Eventually, the deadly virus will run its course through vaccines and natural immunity.

The challenging news is that many of these stragglers are not planning to return at all. Any discipline, including the discipline of attending church, develops through habits. Those who have not returned are out of the habit of attending church. Many have already decided they can do fine without attending church.

What can church leaders do in the meantime? You can stay in touch with the stragglers. A simple contact can go a long way. You can start a new digital Bible study group. Though it's not as good as the in-person experience, it can connect them to others. And you can minister to them. Start a prayer ministry or use your existing prayer ministry to pray for these stragglers. Ask them for prayer requests. Follow up with them.

We will continue to monitor the post-quarantine church carefully. In the meantime, let us know what you are seeing in your church regarding non-returnees. Comment here and share your knowledge and wisdom with others.

It's a challenging time.

But it is also a time of great opportunity as God's Spirit continues to work in our churches.

For the original article, visit churchanswers.com.

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Read articles like this one and other Spirit-led content in our new platform, CHARISMA PLUS.

Get Spirit-filled content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.


Dr. Mark Rutland's

National Institute of Christian Leadership (NICL)

The NICL is one of the top leadership training programs in the U.S. taught by Dr. Mark Rutland. If you're the type of leader that likes to have total control over every aspect of your ministry and your future success, the NICL is right for you!

FREE NICL MINI-COURSE - Enroll for 3-hours of training from Dr. Rutland's full leadership course. Experience the NICL and decide if this training is right for you and your team.

Do you feel stuck? Do you feel like you’re not growing? Do you need help from an expert in leadership? There is no other leadership training like the NICL. Gain the leadership skills and confidence you need to lead your church, business or ministry. Get ready to accomplish all of your God-given dreams. CLICK HERE for NICL training dates and details.

The NICL Online is an option for any leader with time or schedule constraints. It's also for leaders who want to expedite their training to receive advanced standing for Master Level credit hours. Work through Dr. Rutland's full training from the comfort of your home or ministry at your pace. Learn more about NICL Online. Learn more about NICL Online.

Charisma Leader — Serving and empowering church leaders