Build up the body of Christ. Support the Pentecost Offering.

Congregations self-rate ‘fairly well’ after the first few weeks of the pandemic

Initial results from Research Services survey highlight areas of great support and areas of great need

by Melody K. Smith | Presbyterian News Service

Most of the nearly 500 congregations responding to a Research Services survey say they are faring fairly well with technology and other facets of ministry in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Robyn Davis Sekula)

LOUISVILLE — Technology appears to be the greatest benefit and the greatest challenge of doing church differently during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, according to a new survey by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Research Services.

When asking congregations about their current approach to worship in this time of social distancing and sheltering in place, almost half (49%) said “strictly church online (with a different format than our in-person gathering).” Of those, nearly 58 percent said technology was their biggest hurdle.

“It isn’t surprising for people to find ways to make things that seemed hard or impossible before work during a time of great need,” said Dr. Susan Barnett, director of Research Services. “Before the virus outbreak, 81% of the churches surveyed had never streamed their services online.”

During a virtual meeting with mid councils a couple weeks ago, one presbytery executive lamented that he had been trying to get his church to stream services for quite some time. “The virus did in two days what I couldn’t accomplish in two years.”

Related to the technology topic, when asked what resource has been the most helpful, the answer was resoundingly Zoom — the web and video conference software platform that has served to connect so many people and congregations over the past few weeks.

Other resources lifted up in the questions and answers of the survey include those found on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s COVID-19 resource page. Over 80% of those surveyed found the information to be somewhat to very helpful.

The 22-item survey is still open and can be accessed here. To date almost 500 constituents have completed the survey, providing valuable feedback about their current situation and how they are responding to the new challenges with resilience.

There are also concerns, and though some are about the financial impact this new reality could have on the churches, more than half (52%) believe “it will be tight, but we will manage without too much pain by reducing expenses.” More are concerned about the health and welfare of their members, neighbors and communities.

One pastor who is caring for two small churches said, “While it might sound like we are overwhelmed, I have seen the trust in God grow in the hearts of my congregations. And as I learned during the dark journey with my husband, Corrie ten Boom said it best: ‘There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.’”

Creative_Commons-BYNCNDYou may freely reuse and distribute this article in its entirety for non-commercial purposes in any medium. Please include author attribution, photography credits, and a link to the original article. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDeratives 4.0 International License.

  • Subscribe to the PC(USA) News

  • Interested in receiving either of the PC(USA) newsletters in your inbox?

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.