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People are staying at home to watch ‘online church’ instead of attending in person, new report suggests

January 2022 | by Evangelical Times

Richard Powney SOURCE Evangelical Alliance
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Church attendance fell in the year 2021 with more people watching worship services online following the Covid-19 lockdown.

That’s the finding of a troubling new report titled Changing Church, published by the Evangelical Alliance (EA).

The report reveals that the vast majority of churches are back to in-person services following the Covid-19 lockdown.

But the average in-person attendance at church services has dropped by 32 per cent, with the report’s authors stating this may be partly due to a rise in people watching online.

The survey, carried out by Stewardship and Eido Research, garnered responses from 552 evangelical church leaders and 1,676 evangelical church members.

The EA says that the survey was open between 14 and 24 October and people self-selected to take part. Therefore, the results cannot be assumed to be representative of the UK church.

‘However,’ the EA said, ‘the large number of respondents, the even spread of responses from throughout the UK and across different denominations, and the quality and variety of answers to the open questions, allow us to trust that this data is a valuable source of information on the state of the UK evangelical church at this time.’

The research found nearly 60 per cent of church leaders have perceived a decrease in volunteering and a reduction in congregational giving.

But the report also found that most church leaders and members felt their emotional wellbeing was either good or very good.

The EA said, ‘We were surprised with this finding as it doesn’t match up with stories we are hearing from church leaders and individuals we know.’

In a statement, the EA said the survey painted one version of the picture of what is happening across the UK church.

It said, ‘It’s not definitive but the EA hopes something of what is here resonates with people’s experiences and that it provides people with insight to be able to plan for the future.’

Commenting on the latest survey, Richard Powney (pictured), lead theology researcher at the Evangelical Alliance, said the church continued to face a ‘changing, and at times challenging, landscape’.

He commented, ‘This is an opportunity to reflect and reset, to ask strategic conversations and hold formative conversations as we learn some lessons from lockdown.

‘As we do this, let’s pray that we all remain committed to making Jesus known through our words and actions.’