The head of leading US research group Barna has said that one in five churches face the threat of permanent closure over the next 18 months due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier this week, Barna's president David Kinnaman told NPR that ever since states started to loosen the lockdown restrictions, churches have been shocked by the lack of in-person attendees. "They are opening up with a lot less people coming," he explained. "They’re recognising that the relationships that they thought were much deeper with people were actually not as deep as they expected."
Kinnaman added that church finances was the area "hit hardest" by the coronavirus lockdown, noting that congregations across the country are "dependant on donations from congregants." Without the financial resources required to keep functioning, Kinnaman estimates that man — perhaps even a fifth of the churches in the US — could be forced into permanent closure.
"If anything, that prediction was based on data two months ago," he said, "I think we're even more likely to see that be the case today. We're looking at things like people's confidence that their congregation will survive. Early on it was 70 per cent who said they were confident... now that number is 58 per cent of pastors who feel confident that their church will survive.
"Even for those churches that have reopened, they are seeing much smaller numbers of people show up. So, simply reopening a church doesn't fix the underlying economic challenges that you might have as a congregation."
Kinnaman said that the pandemic will likely trigger "fundamental change" to the way Americans "attend church and the way people think about their donation relationship with local churches".