April 21st, 2024

Pandemic Restrictions Had No Lasting Effect on Churches, Study Finds

Date:

 

Even in states where regulations were severe, most congregations moved on quickly.

Jeff Schoch was ready to be done with COVID-19 health safety regulations.

Like most ministers in the US, the pastor of Crossroads Bible Church in San Jose, California, did his best to comply with the many pandemic rules imposed by state and local governments. But as soon as they were lifted, he wanted to put them all behind him. He quickly tore down the state-mandated signs about social distancing, hand washing, and masks.

“I got rid of every visual reminder in the church,” Schoch told CT. “I was anxious, personally, to make that a memory.”

Across the country, Protestant congregations are dealing with the long-term impacts of the pandemic. A new, extensive study by Arbor Research Group and ChurchSalary, a ministry of Christianity Today, found that a lot of pastors are still in crisis. Some furloughed staff members haven’t gone back to work. And even when attendance numbers have rebounded, there are still people missing from many congregations. Christian leaders will likely be grappling with the fallout from COVID-19 for years to come.

But, surprisingly, state-level pandemic restrictions had no measurable, lasting impact on American churches. Even in places like San Jose—where the county government imposed some of the strictest rules in the country, the restrictions changed frequently, and authorities aggressively went after churches they said failed to comply—pastors like Schoch were able to just move on. The data doesn’t show any adverse effects from the government regulations.

Eric Shieh, a research consultant for Arbor Research, said that surprised him.

“You would think that the restrictions made things tougher for churches. They didn’t meet as much, and so you’d …

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