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New Report Offers First Glimpse of How U.S. Congregations Are Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic
Welcome to the inaugural Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations newsletter by Hartford Institute for Religion Research. This occasion not only marks our first issue but also the release of our first study in this five year effort to track the influence of the pandemic on congregational life throughout the U.S. The study report offers a glimpse of how churches are navigating the COVID-19 reality. The data from this past summer shows that congregational life is far from “back to normal” but also offers a few glimmers of hope and signs of resilience.

The study, Navigating the Pandemic: A First Look at Congregational Responses, includes 2,074 survey responses from 38 Christian denominational groups from mid-June to the end of August 2021, and is part of a larger project entitled Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations

“These findings from the summer clearly show that the pandemic has had a profound impact across the religious spectrum, and that some churches are faring better than others,” said Principal Investigator Scott Thumma. “The fact that 83% of churches had at least one member test positive shows that almost no congregation was spared, but over two-thirds feel they will emerge stronger than before implies these faith communities are a resilient bunch.” 

Research shows 80% of churches are now offering hybrid services with both in-person and remote options, while only 15% are solely worshipping in person. However, during the height of the pandemic when people around the country were experiencing severe isolation over half of the churches surveyed (54%) reported completely discontinuing fellowship events, rather than moving them online. 

Community service activities, however, remained a thriving ministry for most churches and continued to be offered in person. Over 30% of congregations saw the need for food assistance, counseling and spiritual demands grow over the course of the pandemic. Fortunately, many congregations (41%) also saw their giving increase to help meet this growing demand. 

Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations also found the majority of clergy (62%) encouraged parishioners to get vaccinated and 28% of congregations welcomed medical personnel to address their membership. 

This is the first wave of a collaborative, five-year research project funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and led by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace (formerly Hartford Seminary). We will continue to release targeted analyses of more specific findings from our topical surveys breaking down how Mainline/Evangelical, multiracial, Black congregations, Latinx congregations, and churches of differing sizes are navigating the pandemic.  

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Explore Our Timeline of Congregations in the Time of COVID
The Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations project seeks to understand how religious congregations emerge in the years following the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. While the coronavirus pandemic created many challenges for US congregations, 2020 was a chaotic year for far more than this public health crisis, and congregations responded in a variety of ways. Understanding the totality of these challenges is imperative for congregations as they begin to navigate life beyond COVID-19.

Explore the new Timeline feature on our website to see how the events of the past 18 months impacted congregations, and the myriad of ways in which they adapted and persevered.
Explore Our Resource Library
Looking for other surveys that have been conducted during COVID-19 or resources for faith leaders navigating the pandemic?

Explore our new Online Resource Library, which offers a custom search tool to help you quickly find what you're looking for.

Have a suggestion for a survey report or resource that should be added? Let us know!
Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations |