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During Pandemic, Small Churches Find Growth Online
"We're now not just a local parish."

Research shows median worship attendance in U.S. congregations is on the decline, but for some small churches, the move to online worship has sparked new life.

We interviewed three congregations who have found new growth through a continued virtual presence. Explore their stories here.
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For a while, the church had more people taking part in small home groups than they did at the pre-COVID Sunday morning services. The second year, however, “tanked” as Olson put it. People got tired of meeting online or in small groups and longed to be together. And yet, when the church did meet in person, fewer people were ready to step in and volunteer the way they did before COVID.

From our vantage point, the pandemic certainly presented some faith or skill-stretching opportunities as pastors led their churches. Nevertheless, the overall tenor expressed by the pastors was much more appreciative of the chance to become better. These conversations remind us of the text from Hebrews 11:40 (NLT): “God had something better in mind for us.”

Church leaders encountered many new challenges during the pandemic. This included discovering their congregations were directly impacted by the digital divide. The Tech in Churches During Covid-19 project, in its third tech trend paper,“The Digital Divide, Digital Reluctance and Its Impact on Pandemic Churches,” investigates how church leaders confronted and sought to transition their congregations online while faced with slow or unstable internet connections and old media equipment to navigate this move.

Like most congregations across the U.S., First Congregational Church, UCC in Boulder, Colorado was rattled by COVID-19. But since 2020, the church community has faced more than the pandemic. “In the last two years, Boulder has experienced other pandemic crises – gun violence and the climate crisis,” explained the Rev. Christina Braudaway-Bauman.

Welcome Charissa!
We are delighted to welcome Charissa Mikoski as our newest Doctoral Research Fellow on the Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations project. She provides quantitative data analysis for the study, as well as survey management. She is currently completing her Ph.D. from Purdue University, focusing on the sociology of religion. Charissa holds a B.A. in Sociology from Westminster College and an M.S. in Sociology from Purdue University. Her past research experiences includes roles with the Pew Research Center, Presbyterian Church (USA), and The Confirmation Project. Learn more about our project team.
Webinar Recording and FAQ: The Pandemic's Impact on Churches
Missed our June webinar with findings and commentary on our three recent surveys of 5,000 churches and how congregations and their clergy are faring? Access the recording and frequently asked questions.
Recent News Coverage of Our Research
Exploring the Pandemic Impact on Congregations |

Funded by Lilly Endowment Inc. and conducted by the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford International University for Religion and Peace.