A new survey by Christian Conference Trust (CCT) has revealed that 92 per cent of churches and Christian organisations say they have lost connection with some of their people because they were unable to meet face-to-face.
"I think long term, it could potentially be damaging," Mark Rowe from CCT told Premier Christian News. "I think there's a chance to bring people back together and even people you never would have attended in in the first place, because face- to-face is so much more important than just having a connection online."
CCT, which runs three Christian retreat centres, also found that 98 per cent of event organisers still plan to hold face-to-face conferences in the future.
Rowe added: "We were able to open very briefly in October and welcome guests of up to 30 at our centres and we saw a real appetite for people wanting to get together face-to-face.
"It's that social time that you have whilst you're having a coffee and eating together, and spending time in the evening sat around the fireplace, that's really the ministry that's missing from online.
"So we are seeing a hunger I do believe… this is just showing that we are social race, and we need people to meet face-to-face it is vital for us."
CCT's centres plan to reopen again in the spring.
Chief executive of CCT John Heasman said: "There has never been a more important time to reconnect in person. Video conferencing helped us all through 2020 but it will never replace the closeness of community felt by going away for a weekend conference together. Our guests understand the value of residential events with 91 per cent telling us they do not believe that video conferencing will replace face-to-face contact.
We've been serving the Christian community for over 100 years and we're going to be here for the next generation of believers to enable their ministry to flourish. As one of our guests told us recently, 'there is no substitute for togetherness' ".
CCT also found that 83 per cent of those surveyed say that their ministry has become more difficult without face-to-face contact. It's launched a new campaign highlighting the isolation felt by so many at this time and the benefits of reconnecting away from the everyday environment.
Listen to Premier's interview with Mark Rowe here: