A new report found that giving is up at churches, but clergy dissatisfaction is still rising.
The report from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research came from a five-year study of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on U.S. churches. The pandemic led to a marked change in worship services and a slow return for people to in-person worship services. Still, the report found that more people are giving, and there is less conflict in churches overall.
The report, titled “Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations,” looked at responses from more than 4,800 congregations from 58 different denominational groups.
“It is apparent that congregational dynamics are still in a state of flux,” said Scott Thumma, director of the study, Religion News Service reports. “Churches, and especially clergy, continue in a recovery phase. Even though aspects of church life are rebounding, the destiny of many faith communities is still uncertain.”
Median attendance was reported at about 60 people, down from 65 in 2020. Only 11 percent said they have experienced “some” growth in their membership, and about 22 percent said they’d seen “significant” growth since 2020.
Churches average about 25 people watching services online each week.
“Congregations remain optimistic about the future, but it is also apparent they are continuing to wrestle with the troubling conditions that were in existence long before COVID-19 arrived,” the report’s researchers wrote.
Meanwhile, giving hiked up about 42 percent over the past three years from a median of $120,000 in 2020 to $170,000 in 2023.
Researchers noted that online giving has helped bolster those numbers, adding up to $2,400 in per capita giving. Churches that do not offer online giving reported per capita giving at about $1,800.
“Giving to religious groups — including congregations and other faith-based charities — grew by 5.2 percent in 2022,” Giving USA said. “Those donations made up about a quarter (27 percent) of all giving to charity — and religion was the only sector in the Giving USA report where giving went up.”
The report also found:
- Volunteerism is up from 15 percent in 2021 and 20 percent in 2022 to 35 percent.
- Just seven percent said the church has seen conflict that led to clergy leaving, and nine percent said they withheld on giving due to conflict. In 2020, that number was 12 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
- Forty-five percent of congregations said they were “very positive” about the future. Another 36 percent said they were “somewhat positive,” nine percent said they were “somewhat negative,” and two percent said they were “very negative” about the future of their church.
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.