A third of practising Christians haven’t tuned in to online services during the coronavirus pandemic, new research by Barna reveals.
Broken down by age, the survey – of adult American Christians – discovered that half of practising Millennials hadn’t attended church in the last four weeks.
They were far more likely to skip services in the past month than older Gen X Christians (35%) and Baby Boomer churchgoers (26%).
“Though younger generations might be more accustomed to digital routines and innovations, their tenuous relationship with institutions seems to persist during this era of digital church,” Barna said.
“These trends highlight the importance of churches continuing to reach out to and disciple the next generation, especially those who are seemingly falling away during the pandemic.”
The research suggested that many Christians enjoyed the freedom of trying out different churches digitally during lockdown, as a third (34%) said they had watched a service at a church other than their own in the previous four weeks.
Around one in five (18%) said they had watched worship services from multiple different churches in the last month.
But for all the church hopping, their loyalties appear to lie with their home church as only 14% said they had switched churches during the pandemic.
Just over half (53%) were happy to stream their own church’s online service within the past four weeks.
A third (32%) hadn’t bothered to stream any service during lockdown, the study found.
“Though some of these churchgoers may be part of the minority of congregations that were still gathering for physical worship during these weeks, we can, for the most part, confidently interpret this group as those who have dropped out of church for the time being,” Barna said.
The study found that those who had dropped out were less likely to be flourishing emotionally during the pandemic, as they were less likely than those watching online services to agree with the statement ‘I am not anxious about my life, as I have an inner peace from God’ (76% vs. 87%).
They were also more likely than all other practicing Christians to say they feel bored ‘all the time’ (17% vs. 6%) or that they have felt ‘insecure’ for at least some of each day (11% vs. 7%).