American Baptist Churches USA Survey Assesses Impact of COVID-19

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American Baptist Churches USA Survey Assesses Impact of COVID-19

In May of 2020, a survey regarding the impact of the global pandemic was sent to all of the American Baptist regions via each region’s executive minister. On behalf of local churches, the person most knowledgeable was asked to complete the survey. Originally requested by the members of the National Executive Council and Regional Executive Ministers Council, the survey of American Baptist congregations was aimed at assessing the impact of COVID-19.

A total of 414 congregations responded to the survey. A summary of the quantitative results is shown below. The survey results summary looks at the overall impact of COVID-19, the impact of COVID-19 on worship and ministry, future outlook related to COVID-19, and areas impacted by the virus.

Overall Impact of COVID-19

The survey indicated that a slight majority of the congregations surveyed are experiencing only a slight or moderate impact from COVID-19, while a small percentage of ABC congregations have been hit very hard by the pandemic. The majority (63%) of respondents believe that they are in an area with fewer cases than the rest of the country. About one-half (52%) of the congregations surveyed indicated that COVID-19 has had a moderate or less impact on their congregation. Some congregations (14%) report being hit very hard financially by COVID-19 stating that at least 20% of their members are unemployed.

Impact of COVID-19 on Worship and Ministry

In regard to worship and ministry, the survey respondents indicated through their response that many congregations have delivered a robust response to the adverse effects of COVID-19. While the pandemic has elicited both positive and negative influences upon the congregations surveyed, sometimes the dual influences have occurred in same areas such as worship and outreach.

88% of the respondents indicate that their congregations have been able to offer online worship during the pandemic. Only 6% indicate that their congregation has not been able to offer any online activities during the pandemic.

73% of the respondents believe that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their worship, but a slightly higher number (77%) believe that COVID-19 has also created new opportunities for worship. Similarly, 50% of the respondents believe that COVID-19 has negatively impacted their outreach, while (61%) believe that COVID-19 has created new opportunities in this same area of ministry.

Over one-half (57%) of the respondents say that their worship attendance has increased during the pandemic compared to only 14% who indicate that worship attendance has declined. In most cases, however, increased worship attendance online has not translated into increased giving. Sixty-percent report that giving has decreased compared to only 16% who report that giving has increased during the pandemic.

Nearly 4 out of 5 respondents indicate that they plan to continue to offer online worship following the stay at home orders.

Respondents indicate that their congregants miss “feeling a sense of community” the most when compared to missing other elements of worship and ministry.

Nearly three-fourths of respondents revealed that their congregation has engaged in “delivering supplies to persons who cannot leave their home” during the pandemic and at least one-half have engaged in “distributing food to those in need” and “making masks.”

Future Outlook

While COVID-19 has taken a severe toll on some congregations, others have shown strong signs of resiliency and hope.

Nearly two-thirds (62%) of the respondents say that their congregations are not worried about paying their pastor and staff in the near future.

In terms of balancing the budget, the responses are divided into thirds, with one-third expressing no concern, another third expressing some concern, and a third expressing moderate to heavy concern. Two-percent are wondering if they will be able to remain open after this global pandemic.

Responding to a list of possible state of mind descriptors, the majority of persons (68%) indicated that they are “hopeful” and another 52% indicated that they feel “resilient” about the future.

42% of respondents said that they feel that their congregation is an extremely innovative or very innovative congregation, signaling more creative responses to COVID-19.

38% of respondents said that their congregation would be “healthier than it was before” following the pandemic, compared to only 12% who said that they believe that it would be “less healthy than it was before.”

Respondents noted additional areas impacted by COVID-19, including:

  • Our well-being
  • Our leadership team, committee, and board meetings
  • My workload
  • Our unity
  • Ability to grieve with those who died
  • Support of the homeless
  • Ability to integrate our new pastor
  • Pastoral calling
  • Actual presence
  • Need to gather as the Body of Christ
  • Has just made each of these look different
  • Sense of security