Study: Church Outreach Expands to Meet Pandemic Needs

Even with lower attendance, congregations are adapting their ministries and launching new ones.

More than half of Christian congregations say they have started a new ministry or expanded an existing one during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey.

On average, in fact, these Christian houses of worship began or broadened more than three of their outreach activities in response to the pandemic.

“The level of new and intensified social outreach and community ministry undertaken by the nation’s churches is monumental,” reads the report by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research.

The second installment in a five-year project that began earlier this year called “Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations,” it is based on a collaboration among 13 denominations from the Faith Communities Today cooperative partnership and institute staffers.

If their findings are representative of the roughly 320,000 Christian congregations in the country, the institute said, the researchers estimate that nearly 175,000 churches launched or expanded ministries, funds and supplies in response to the pandemic over the past two years.

Overall, almost three-quarters (74%) of churches have offered social support during the pandemic and close to two-thirds of congregations say they have been involved in new ministries.

The new findings, a November survey drawn from 820 responses from representatives of 38 Christian denominational groups, showed significant changes in congregations’ attitudes toward change, particularly increasing diversity.

Less than three-quarters (73%) agreed in 2020 that their congregations were willing to change to meet new challenges. That increased to 86 percent in November.

There also seemed to be greater interest in striving to be diverse, with 38 percent describing themselves …

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