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I can relate to the results of a new Barna Research survey which shows that 20% of regular churchgoers have not attended a single church service since COVID restrictions started.
“When we’re looking at general church engagement, there has been a slow decline over the last 10 years,” noted Savannah Kimberlin, Barna’s director of published research told the Christian Post. “It’s almost as if the disruption multiplied overnight. Five years of disruption has happened over the course of five months.”
While I can’t say that I have “never” attended a service online, my virtual experience ended shortly after it began. It was not a “church” experience in any way, shape or form. It lacked any connection to people. It was no different than watching a TV show.
I found people being allowed to “chat” online during worship songs and sermons to be disruptive. The endless scrolling of comments was tremendously distracting.
Perhaps I was in the wrong frame of mind, but I could not sense the presence of the Holy Spirit during online services.
When the church I was attending re-opened its doors, a series of additional restrictions further eroded the feeling we were going to “church,” such as:
- Everyone hiding behind masks.
- No shaking hands or giving hugs.
- No taking of communion.
- No collecting of tithes and offering.
- Social distancing ensured two families could not sit together.
- No coffee or snacks, like donuts.
- The bookstore was closed.
Add to that the fact all small group activity ended. None of the three groups I had been meeting with weekly or semi-monthly even made a transition to meeting online.
“There are a lot of people who have said they’ve watched church, but they have never attended a service digitally. It does not go the other way,” Kimberlin explained.
“What we decided is it really all comes down to engagement. Are you consuming a service passively or are you feeling connected to your community? Do you feel present and invested as a congregant?” she asked.
For me, the answer was a resounding “No!”