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Topics: September 2022, UCC in Focus | Opinion

Will churches get back to pre-pandemic attendance?

Question Box columnist Christopher White addresses a reader


Q: Our congregation has been open for in-person worship for months now, but our attendance has not been close to pre-pandemic numbers. Do you think we will ever get back to those numbers?

A: It’s too soon to tell. People have been worn down by over two years of the pandemic and are just beginning to find their feet again. Waves of infection seem to come and go at unpredictable intervals. Once people feel completely safe, you may see more folks return to in-person worship — but there is a big caveat. 

People have gotten out of the habit of going to church, and some won’t come back. For others, the online experience is working well and that’s where they intend to stay. My church may have only 25 to 40 people online during the service, but a few weeks back that swelled to 250 views by the following Saturday. This pattern has been consistent throughout the pandemic. People really enjoy experiencing church when it works for them and their families.

Some advocate shutting down online worship to “force” people to attend in person, but it won’t work. All it will do is drive people to other churches that are offering online worship.

That said, many churches are experiencing a surge of new people coming in the doors of the physical building. These folks are looking for church and its community; they are wanting the kind of connection that has been missing during the past two years.

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We also need a new metric for measuring attendance. It’s in person and online together, not either/or. That’s our new world.


Christopher White is in ministry at Kedron United in Oshawa, Ont.

This column first appeared in Broadview’s September 2022 issue with the title “Will we get back to pre-pandemic attendance?”

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  • says:

    interesting that Chris's nuanced answer was completely misrepresented by the Broadview email newsletter. The email spoke of people disillusioned by the Church's involvement in Residential schools. Is there any evidence that this is why people are not returning.

    I find that the Broadview somethings misunderstands the Church and the United church. Note for instance the significance between The Church and the church. I have often noted reference to the Roman Catholic church as The Church. This is theologically uninformed. Note in this case the the email brings up "people find spiritual community outside the church. Do you have evidence to make such a bold statement? You can do better.

  • says:

    The loss of this public space around us and beautiful places to gather, must not be accepted "as the normal progress in development " or lost to "densification for affordability and survival" in our world ahead.
    Every effort must be made to preserve these spaces, I believe eventually - citizens will prefer to gather and come back.
    As Robert Bateman (Canadian artist) once said, "Creation is long and difficult - destruction is quick."


    • says:

      That's funny

      The Bible states Creation took 6 days, and God has been merciful and the first destruction took 1660 years and the next destruction has been withheld for 6000 years.

      For creating, "God said" - for it's destruction it comes with "a roar"

      If man thinks he can do the work of God without God, he will fail. Every time