Impact of COVID-19 on United Methodist Churches
United Methodist Communications conducted an online survey between March 26 and 30, 2020 to assess the impact of COVID-19 on United Methodist congregations. They received a total of 958 complete responses, the key findings of which are summarized via the slideshow below.
A Phase II study was conducted in late April to more comprehensively assess how the pandemic is affecting United Methodist congregations at this more advanced stage of the crisis. Below is a summary of their key findings.
Pastors appear more confident and resilient in facing the coronavirus crisis. They describe themselves as hopeful (42%), calm (34%), resilient (28%) or encouraged (26%). Only 13% say they feel stressed 13%, 12% anxious and 10% frustrated.
The upbeat attitude may reflect improved church “performance”. 48% indicate average worship attendance is up compared to pre-crisis times. Churches have adapted to social distancing mandates, embracing online services. 76% offer online services, with only 2% canceling all worship activities. 67% of those with online services started them since the crisis. Churches are making concerted efforts to reach members that are not digitally connected. This is primarily via telephone calls, 92%, conference calls, 24%, and phone trees, 24%. About half, 53%, use snail mail, and 15% use safe-distance house visits. 5% say they are conducting outdoor worship.
Similarly, churches have adapted to the financial aspects of the pandemic, moving to address giving and budget shortfalls. 31% describe church finances as not a concern vs. 15% in the Phase. While 51% say giving is down vs 76% in Phase I.
Most churches are adopting activities related to the pandemic, such as making masks (53%), delivering supplies to shut-ins (58%) and the homeless (40%). Additionally, 9% are providing encouragement to “essential” workers, and 3% are providing child care to these workers.
Top priorities among these pastors are member care (74%), worship (63%), communicating with members (47%), keeping the community connection (26%) and technology (24%).
Overall, Phase II results shows a very adaptive United Methodist Church, capable of finding creative solutions of conducting ministry and supporting members. Generally, respondents have a very positive outlook, with some caution as they look forward to the next phase of the pandemic. For example, managing mourning will be an issue when we come together again.
Methodology: Online survey fielded April 16-21, 2020 among convenience sample of 970 pastors and lay leaders from UMCom internal database (24 questions / 1 open-ended / 6 minutes).
Please direct questions to:
Chuck Niedringhaus, Director, Marketing Research & Agency Evaluation
Teresa Faust, Senior Manager, Research & Metrics