As the country faces a new era after the pandemic, church leaders are considering the future of worship.
According to a survey by Barna Group on the willingness of American adults to engage in online worship, 68% of Christians said they are somewhat open to actively participate in prayer during a virtual church service. Even non-Christians and those with no faith are willing to join in digital times of prayer with a church at 32% and 23%, respectively.
In a journal called Five Questions Every Church Leader Should Ask About Digital Prayer, 60% of the respondents said online worship service is the only virtual activity of their church during the pandemic. While most adults watched services online, only 53% of them participated with prayer times while viewing.
More than two-thirds of Christians (68%) say they are at least somewhat open to actively participating in a time of prayer during an online church service gathering. —Barna Group
While many Christians still prefer in-person worship, the report found that there are people who are more open to virtual group prayer. These early adopters of digital group prayers can be tapped by church leaders to make online worship interesting and engaging to fellow believers. Barna categorized these adaptable attendees into four groups: younger generations of Christians, practicing Christians, non-white Christians, and churchgoers with high digital openness.
Fifty-three percent of Gen Z Christians (those between 6 and 24 years old) claimed to have participated in a digital prayer gathering this year. For practicing Christians, nearly half, or 46%, said they were “very open” to prayer in online church services, while 44% of non-white Christians said the same. Seven in ten churchgoers with high digital openness reported frequency in praying in online groups.
Data in Barna’s survey revealed that there are opportunities for the church to enhance their current online church services and for others to launch their own. The report said these four groups can be used as a foundation of a church in starting or building on their current digital worship services. Nurturing these Christians, the report advised, can help leaders to reach more churchgoers.
The pandemic has shifted the way Christians attend to their spiritual needs—removing social hours and church suppers, activities aimed at building relationships among congregants. However, this change in worship also brought its own advantages.
Christians found that they can do more tasks because of virtual worship. “I don’t have to drive an hour to sit down and read the Bible with someone,” shared 45-year-old Claire Anderson from Marietta, Ga. “I can do it all from home. There’s no running to meetings. There’s no strain on my kids. There’s no strain on my husband. I’m not always rushing somewhere.”
Many pastors have intensified efforts in keeping in touch with members and maintaining their communities. “It’s made me refocus on connecting individually with people. I have our staff checking on every elderly person in the congregation every couple of weeks to see what they need and how we can serve them. So there are some connections that are probably stronger now than they were before,” said Randal Lyle, senior pastor at Meadowridge Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.