As many as one in five churches could permanently close as a result of shutdowns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, according to David Kinnaman, president of the prominent Christian research organization Barna Group.
In an interview with NPR Monday regarding the status of American churches after months of shutdowns, Kinnaman said although churches were handling things “pretty swimmingly” at first, circumstances have changed for some.
He noted that although many churches have opened as states’ shutdown orders are loosened, their services have had “a lot less people coming.”
“They’re recognizing that the relationships that they thought were much deeper with people were actually not as deep as they expected,” Kinnaman told NPR.
Kinnaman then explained that, in keeping with research from earlier this year, he still expected to see about one in five churches permanently close within the next 18 months.
“If anything, I think that prediction was based on data about two, two-and-a-half months ago, and I think we’re even more likely to see that to be the case today,” he noted.
“The disruptions related to giving, and maybe even as important to all that, is that even for those churches that have reopened, they’re seeing much smaller numbers of people show up. So simply reopening a church doesn’t fix the underlying economic challenges that you might have.”
One parameter, he explained, was how there had been a drop in belief among pastors that their churches will survive the pandemic, going from 70% responding that they were “very confident” early on to 58% responding the same more recently.