5 years ago I posted this article as a reflection. I’ve revamped it and now ask, what will church membership look like post-COVID? I have a hunch. Purely a guess, but 25-50% membership decline. Not everyone, but as a whole. We’re noticing how little we need the typical church experience. Any church that centres most of their existence on that Sunday service will suffer the largest. After all, COVID has taught us, even the nascent churchgoer, you don’t need a weekly service to survive.
What WON’T be lost are relationships. Churches with strong community will survive. I don’t know about thrive, but they’ll survive. Usually that’s smaller micro churches that fit this bill. LARGE churches will also survive. They’ll suffer serious losses too, but they’ll pick up the pieces for the middle-ground churches who will suffer the most. Here are my thoughts.
- The majority of churches are medium sized (under 200), so if every church stands to lose people, they will lose the most by default
- Medium sized churches without any particular draw (great programs, great neighborhood presence, great service) will crater. Consumer Christians will either stop coming, or they’ll go to the better programs down the road. That’s why….
- Large churches and mega churches will survive because they will have resources to get back up and running. Consumers will go to the best programs within their vicinity.
- Many small churches that still have debt will likely close because giving has gone down for all
- I would guess that many church plants will close since most rely on Sunday services to maintain interest. Sending churches might reclaim their people, however.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sunday service numbers, after an initial draw, drop by 25-50%. Church membership will decline 50% 1-year after ‘normal’. Churches that can’t adapt to a “new normal” will also suffer in the long run.
I surmise the kind of church that will stick around will be the tiny localized neighborhood parish clinging to their small part of the world. They were already committed for the long haul. So going forward, I foresee the quick erosion of the middle. Mega will grow at the expense of the ‘median’. Like I said, most churches play some form of the consumer Christianity game, and that means you compete for bums in seats. COVID will kill off any church that was struggling before the pandemic.
It would be worth writing something on what you can do to survive, so I’ll think up something there, and I’ll ask around for some input.