Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
Churches had a whirlwind year in 2020 and things still aren’t back to normal as the following church statistics for 2021 show.
There’s a combination of both good news and bad. However, churches that build upon the good still have ample room to grow and thrive.
While The Church might be changing, people are still hungry and need a place to help guide them.
Looking for more church statistics? Here are some of our previous posts on the topic.
- 14 Church Statistics You Need To Know For 2020
- 37 Church Statistics You Need To Know for 2019
- 10 Church Statistics You Need To Know For 2018
- 9 Important Church Statistics For 2017
Table of contents
- 1. Non-Practicing Christians Are On The Rise
- 2. Regular Church Attendance Declines
- 3. Prayer Is Still Important
- 4. Church Attendance By Generation
- 5. Tithing Numbers Still Low
- 6. Faith Remains Strong During COVID-19
- 7. Live Streaming Leads To Growth
- 8. Sermons Matter Most
- 9. Community Matters Too
- 10. Live Streaming Increases Online Tithing
- 11. Online Attendance Is Higher Than In-Person
- 12. Initial Tithing Effects Of COVID-19
- 13. Church Attendance Still Reeling From COVID
- 14. Hybrid Church Services Could Be The New Norm
- 15. Members Somewhat Confident Churches Are Safe
- 16. In-Person Attendance Slowly Growing
- 17. Christians Experiment With Different Churches
- 18. Members Happy With Live Streaming
- 19. More And Less Tithing Among Regular Viewers
- 20. Increase In Hybrid Services
- 21. Social Media Valuable Tool During Pandemic
- 22. Income Top Issue Facing Churches
- 23. Church Unity A Problem During The Pandemic
- 24. Many Churches Are Back To In-Person Gatherings
- 25. Attendance Changes Vary By Church Size
1. Non-Practicing Christians Are On The Rise
Often, you hear statistics about low church attendance. Naturally, you might associate attendance numbers with how many Christians there actually are. However, that’s not always the case.
In a Barna Group study about how Americans relate to Christianity, the number of non-practicing Christians is rising while the number of practicing Christians is declining
Non-practicing Christians have grown from 35% to 43% from 2000 to 2020. During the same time, practicing Christians declined from 45% to 25%. Non-Christians or agnostic rose from 20% to 32%.
The takeaway is there are still Christians out there who need help. It’s up to your church to find innovative ways to reach them.
2. Regular Church Attendance Declines
Based on the statistics above, regular attendance declining shouldn’t be a surprise. The same study found weekly church attendance had declined from 45% in 1993 to 29% in 2020. However, this is an increase from 2017 when weekly attendance was at 27%.
It’s important to note that any church statistics for 2021 may also be affected by COVID-19. So, it’s possible that as things improve that attendance may start to rise gradually as well.
3. Prayer Is Still Important
One thing practicing and non-practicing Christians agree on is prayer. The Barna Group study found 69% of Christians had prayed within the last week. This is only a small decline from 83% in 1996. The number has actually stayed fairly steady for the last eight years.
One way your church can help reach more Christians is by offering online prayer options. This can help bring Christians from around the world together.
4. Church Attendance By Generation
While the Barna Group hasn’t included Gen Z yet, the study did show that while church attendance for the four older generations (Elders, Boomers, Gen X and Millennials) rose between 2009 and 2012, it’s declined going into 2018 and beyond.
Elders, the oldest tracked generation by Barna, is still the most active with 37% attending weekly. Millennials bring up the rear with just 25% attending weekly.
But, don’t let this get you down. This is weekly attendance. Due to changing lifestyles, more people are busy on weekends. They may attend in person every other week or once a month. Live streaming your services can also help boost attendance.
5. Tithing Numbers Still Low
Most church statistics for 2021 might seem grim when it comes to tithing, but the tithing issue started long before the pandemic and temporary church closings.
In fact, one study found only 5% of churchgoers gave 10% or more of their annual income to church or any other charity. But, it’s not just your church. People haven’t been the most charitable with 30% not giving anything to any charity.
On the other hand, 50% give up to 2%. While it might not seem like much, those small amounts add up. Plus, it does show that half of Americans are at least willing to give.
Offering online giving is a great way to help boost tithing and gain financial stability for your church.
6. Faith Remains Strong During COVID-19
With churches having to close their doors during the early months of COVID-19, many pastors were worried that their members might lose their faith. This is especially true for anyone being more directly impacted by COVID-19, such as losing a loved one.
However, pastors in one study said 64% of their members stayed the same in terms of their faith. Pastors also said 14% may not be quite as faithful as before. A promising number, 22% to be exact, are actually growing in their faith, showing that people still need churches to be there to help them grow.
7. Live Streaming Leads To Growth
A common reason many churches never tried live streaming before the pandemic is they didn’t think it’d provide any growth potential. However, churches that implement may experience exponential growth.
In one case study covering several churches’ use of live streaming, Georgia’s Redeemer Church grew from around a dozen members to over 1,000 in a year. And, they also get viewers from over 17 countries worldwide.
Texas-based church Current was able to reach upwards of 130 more people with live streaming. Those are 130 more potential in-person visitors as well.
So, even if members can attend with no issues, you’re still able to reach far more people, which can lead to growth offline and increased tithing, by live streaming your services.
8. Sermons Matter Most
A Gallup poll found that the deciding factor as to whether someone attends church or not is the sermon content. 75% reported they preferred sermons relevant to their lives, while 76% reported enjoying sermons that teach scripture.
This is another reason to add your sermons online so potential church-goers are able to see if your sermons meet their needs.
9. Community Matters Too
The same Gallup poll found that community programs, both for members and non-members, were incredibly important when choosing a church.
So, even if you have great sermons, those looking for a church are also interested in:
- Community outreach and volunteer opportunities (59%)
- Social activities for the community (49%)
- Spiritual programs for kids and teens (64%)
10. Live Streaming Increases Online Tithing
Live streaming helps you reach a much larger audience, many of which can’t or won’t attend in person. However, that doesn’t mean they’re not a part of your church.
Champions Centre started live streaming to help grow their church and reach. Not only did they grow their viewership, but they also increased online tithing by 70%.
This might be one of the most important church statistics for 2021. Your members don’t actually have to be in your church to be a part of your church. They can participate and donate in many of the same ways as your in-person members, helping your church grow globally.
11. Online Attendance Is Higher Than In-Person
While only around half of churches tracked their online attendance initially during the coronavirus, the other half discovered that online attendance is a little higher than in-person attendance. CDF Capital tracked how churches were changing during this early period of the pandemic.
It wasn’t a huge jump, but online views when churches initially went to online-only was 8% higher than in-person attendance before churches closed.
12. Initial Tithing Effects Of COVID-19
One of the more depressing church statistics for 2021 is how tithing has changed throughout 2020. Naturally, the initial hit for churches was the hardest as many people were laid off or lost their jobs completely, leaving them without any income to donate.
The same CDF Capital study found that 43% of churches experienced a decrease in tithing in March 2020. Surprisingly, 7% saw an increase, while 50% of churches didn’t respond.
Overall, churches of all sizes experienced an average decline of 29% in tithing at the start of the pandemic.
13. Church Attendance Still Reeling From COVID
Depending on your church and country, church attendance may be far from pre-COVID levels or getting close to being normal. Carey Nieuwhof put together several telling church statistics for 2021:
- Churches are back at 36% of what they were on average (Q3 UnStuck Church Report)
- Only 52% of church-goers want primarily in-person services again (Barna)
- 71% of Boomers want primarily in-person services (Barna)
- Less than 50% of Gen X (47%), Millennials (42%) and Gen Z (41%) want in-person services
However, if you check out the comments on Nieuwhof’s post, some churches, especially in Australia, are reporting being at 80% of what they were.
14. Hybrid Church Services Could Be The New Norm
For some churches, hybrid services were nothing new in 2020. They already used this strategy effectively. However, the UnStuck report Nieuwhof references points out that just 21% of church leaders had a solid digital strategy in place before and during COVID.
However, the trend towards a hybrid church is growing, especially as more people have experienced the convenience of online services during the pandemic. In fact, the Barna study Neiuwhof references shows 35% of all church-goers surveyed liked both in-person and online services.
The good news is just 9% preferred online-only. So, providing both helps you meet the needs of everyone.
15. Members Somewhat Confident Churches Are Safe
It’s natural and a good thing that people are being cautious during the pandemic. However, this is also preventing some people from returning to church in-person for the time being.
The good news for churches is most members surveyed by the Pew Research Center felt somewhat confident that they could attend their church safely without fear of getting infected or spreading coronavirus.
16. In-Person Attendance Slowly Growing
The Pew Research Center survey backs up other studies that show in-person attendance is back to around a third of what it was pre-COVID. As of July 2020, 33% of those who previously attending monthly were attending services in-person, while 72% were watching virtually.
17. Christians Experiment With Different Churches
Since so many churches opted for live streaming during the pandemic, Christians took advantage to check out other churches. In fact, the Pew study showed 42% watched services from a church other than their own. The same percentage of Catholics did the same.
18. Members Happy With Live Streaming
One of the more positive church statistics for 2021 is how happy church members have been with live streamed services. The Pew study found 91% were satisfied with what their churches were doing. So, keep up the great work!
19. More And Less Tithing Among Regular Viewers
The Pew study, which focused heavily on live streaming services, found that 18% of members donated less than usual, while 8% donated more. However, 54% donated approximately the same. 17% didn’t donate at all.
This shows that continuing to engage members, even when they can’t attend in person, can help with giving.
20. Increase In Hybrid Services
Even as of October 2020, churches of all denominations are holding hybrid services to provide a safe way for members to attend. A Church Executive study found 74% of churches opting for a hybrid model that involves a combination of online, full in-person and social distanced models.
21. Social Media Valuable Tool During Pandemic
Churches that might not have used social media before have found it to be a valuable tool for engagement and connection. The Church Executive study found that 80% of churches were successfully using social media to help them stay connected with members.
22. Income Top Issue Facing Churches
Despite around half of members still giving the same, half aren’t. This is why 60% of Church Executive study respondents said the church’s finances were a top issue for them.
Catholic churches responded the highest to this issue with 67% saying it was a major problem they’re facing.
23. Church Unity A Problem During The Pandemic
With so much misinformation floating around, it’s not surprising that churches are facing a unity problem in getting everyone on the same page with pandemic rules and restrictions.
Another Church Executive study found that 73% of churches say leaders agree on a coronavirus strategy. However, their members weren’t as agreeable with the following causing disagreements and issues:
- In-person gatherings (34%)
- Wearing masks (19%)
- Worship styles (13%)
- Conspiracy theories (13%)
Sadly, only 9% of churches said they didn’t have any divisiveness within their church.
24. Many Churches Are Back To In-Person Gatherings
One of the best church statistics for 2021 is many churches are offering in-person gatherings again. Of course, these often come with restrictions, such as limited capacity or gathering outdoors.
Church Executive found that in America, 70% of churches in the midwest are back to in-person gatherings. In the western part of the country, only 57% are back to in-person.
25. Attendance Changes Vary By Church Size
Most coronavirus church attendance statistics focus on all churches, but that doesn’t always properly represent churches of different sizes.
The Church Executive study discovered churches with 50-149 members saw more decreases with 42% reporting a slight decrease and 16% reporting larger decreases.
34% of churches with 1-49 members saw a slight decrease, but 37% reported steady attendance. Even 21% saw a slight increase.
Churches with 350 or more members had the least negative impact and the highest growth.
One major takeaway from all these church statistics for 2021 is a digital presence is a necessity for engaging with your members and helping grow your church. Contact Reach Right today to see how the right website can help boost your engagement.