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EXCLUSIVE: Barna President Tells CBN News Online Church Attendance Up, Giving Down, Right Before First Digital Easter in History


ABOVE: David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, an influential Christian research organization, appeared on the Wednesday edition of CBN News's Faith Nation to discuss how online church attendance is up due to the COVID-19 pandemic, yet giving is down. Faith Nation is seen weekdays on the CBN News Channel

WASHINGTON – Churches continuing to hold in-person worship services came under fire from elected officials and other critics Sunday who fear the gatherings put parishioners at risk for catching the coronavirus.

Now new research, obtained exclusively by CBN News, shows how churches across the nation are managing their ministries, including plans to celebrate Easter, during the pandemic.

In a Barna survey of senior pastors over the past ten days, 68% report their parishioners are "good," despite 60% reporting the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the overall well-being of people in their churches. Nearly half of pastors say they see the faith of their congregants growing.

And despite criticisms of church services in violation of isolation warnings, most churches, 63% are currently open to staff only.

During the first week of the survey, 18% of churches were open for small gatherings or meetings, but that number decreased to 8% by the second week.

And while pastors report their congregations are mostly weathering new realities during a pandemic, church finances are taking a big hit.

70% of pastors report overall church giving is down and 22% are reducing staff hours or compensation. 

Still, the vast majority of churches say they're focused on communicating messages of faith and hope to the people in their communities.

One area suffering is youth ministries. Just 3% of pastors report offering ongoing digital or distance ministry options for children and youth.


And the big question: how do churches plan to handle their Easter services?

The majority, 58%, plan to either live stream or send a recorded video or podcast message. And in this era of social distancing 35% are actually experiencing higher attendance online.

Only 5% plan to postpone their Easter services.

95% of pastors are confident or very confident their churches will survive this trial. A slight majority think they'll be back to hosting church services again in their buildings by May.

For more on the survey, watch CBN News's Faith Nation Tuesday for an interview with Barna President David Kinnaman.

Faith Nation is seen weekdays on the CBN News Channel

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