I read some stats a couple of days ago from the Barna Group. Barna is a well respected spiritual research group that has been around for some time. There was one particular stat that jumped out at me. Their research showed 1 out 5 churches would close their doors over the next 18 months. That is quite an astounding number of closures over a relatively short period of time.
The reason given for the closures is the effects of the coronavirus. Many churches have not yet reopened for in person services. For those traditional churches who have returned to in person services in their buildings it has been struggle.
Most of the struggle comes down to finances. You see, even while the buildings were closed the monthly expenses remained. The electric, water, sewer bills along with insurance had to be paid. Salaries, if there is paid staff, had to be paid.
In regards to giving, it is sort of an "out of sight, out of mind" thing. As you can imagine, many church folks were impacted in some way by COVID-19. Many were laid off from their jobs. Those who were still working, in many cases, had their hours cut. This resulted in less household income for them to meet the needs of their families. They had to cut somewhere to put food on their tables and keep the lights on. Giving was one of those places that was easy to forget about or cut. Less money coming in has resulted in financial hardships for many churches.
Some churches have yet to reopen. Instead, they have taken creative approaches to ministry for the safety of the congregation. Many have gone to virtual church services. They use various social media platforms to stream their church services. They have developed ways to give online. While this has been a help, in many cases overall giving is down considerably.
Some churches have reopened with restrictions regarding social distancing along with other health mandates. Statistics show, on average, about 25% - 50% of attendees have returned. Some don't feel safe in returning yet due to COVOD-19. Some choose to watch the service being streamed from the safety of their homes.
One thing is for certain - the way church is done is forever changed. I believe we will continue to see more churches opt for virtually streaming their services. I believe online giving will continue to be encouraged. You will be able to submit any prayer requests you may have online. All of these are good things, in my opinion.
With all this in mind, it is certainly easy to see how it is possible that 1 in 5 churches will close their doors over the next 18 months. It could be even more.
Here's the good news in all this. No matter how many traditional churches close it will not affect God's church. God's church will never close!
God's church is not confined to a building. His church is anywhere His people are. There doesn't have to be a great number of people. There doesn't have to be an organized service as it's come to be known today. God's people are free to minister to one another. Yes, we certainly do need one another (I wrote about that in a previous post). There are no Lone Rangers in the kingdom of God. We can meet in a park, restaurant or a living room. We can sing, share and discuss God's Word. The opportunities are unlimited.
Makes you wonder what God might have in store for us, huh?
Until next time...enjoy the journey!