How to Grow Your Church After a Pandemic

Two pieces of research suggests that it did.

We have lots to be thankful for. I asked our church warden what she thought about our recent Easter service. She looked at me intently and joyfully recollected: “it was amazing, there wasn’t a mask in sight’. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind - and I was suddenly more thankful than ever for the freedoms we enjoy.

Our churches and towns have enjoyed and suffered change because of the pandemic. While its effects continue to peter out and settle, two pieces of research have captured snapshots of some of these changes. Snapshots which should leave us feeling discontent and hopeful. 

Discontent, because church attendance has decreased significantly.

Hopeful, because more people are willing to hear about Jesus.

Church growth cannot be guaranteed - but it can be cultivated. These two pieces of research will help us understand both church and society as we seek to grow our churches after a pandemic. Together they will help us think about how we grow our churches after a pandemic.

Discontent - The Post-Pandemic Church

A report into church attendance was published last month called ‘Church Attendance in October 2022: Post-Covid-19 Trends, Patterns and Possibilities”. The report compared church attendance levels between October 2019 and October 2022. Here are the two headlines from the report:

Between Oct 2019 and Oct 2022 average weekly Church attendance has decreased by 22%.1

This is due to “Patchy provision, not declining demand”.2 

The church has seen a significant shift in its weekly life and attendance. The report suggests that more provision can lead to more growth in your church. But we must remember that a thousand stories produce a single statistic. Do these statistics tell the story of your church? What story can your church tell following the pandemic?

Statistics and their stories should motivate us - they remind us that opportunities to proclaim, worship and gather are at hand. How can your church provide space for those on the highways and byways and margins and edges? What small step can you take to gather together those who don’t know Jesus with those who do?

Hopeful - Talking Jesus 

Talking Jesus is a research project that interviewed about 4000 adults in 2022. It takes a snapshot of the general feeling towards evangelism in the UK. It asks Christians how they feel about sharing Jesus, and it asks non-christians how they feel about hearing about him.

Here are two headlines (amongst many) from their research that should inspire hope:

For non-christians who have talked to a christian about faith 36% would agree that they were more open to having an encounter with Jesus Christ.3 

Following a conversation with a christian 1 in 3 non-christians want to know more about Jesus.4 

According to the Talking Jesus research, people are willing and open to talking about Jesus. And, as we will see, this even increased after their first research project before the pandemic way back in 2015.

People are warmer towards evangelism than before the pandemic. The barrier to having a conversation about Jesus is lower than you expect. Talking Jesus isn’t just a task for the evangelists or apologists, it’s for you and for me. The Word is near in our words.

Blessed are the Discontent

These projects paint a complementary picture. Together they remind us of the simple tasks of a church - to gather and proclaim. Neither require endless strategising or lofty speech. They require our churches to be churches and you to be you.

Bob Jackson, one of the contributors to the church attendance research, says this:

“I see a clear link between our research and Talking Jesus. They found that in 2015 1 in 5 who had talked to Christians were open to further conversations, but in 2022 it was 1 in 3. This ties in with our finding that the failure so far to return to 2019 attendance levels is due to supply constraints. We have found that some churches have grown a lot since reopening. If you stay online and don’t reduce your number of services you have probably grown.”

Church growth is cultivated by proclamation and provision. And because people want to hear, and many will want to attend. We can be confident that growth will follow.

Leading your Church into Growth

It is one thing to write about growth and another to go out and do it.

Leading your Church into Growth is committed to sharing our belief that growth is possible, that it looks different for every church, and all it takes is a few, small, careful steps. 

The above research supports our view. It tells us that declined attendance isn’t due to a declined demand. It tells us that churches are integral to coming to faith. The harvest really is ripe. Our churches really can grow. Here are 2 key recommendations for cultivating growth in your church after the pandemic. And they shouldn’t surprise anyone:

1: Talk to non-christians about Jesus

2: Provide opportunities for people to respond to Jesus in your churches.

Growing churches is easier than you think. 

1 Church Attendance in Oct 22, p9
2 Church Attendance in Oct 22, p7
3 Talking Jesus 22, p25
4 Talking Jesus 22, p25

Church Attendance in October 2022: Post-Covid-19 Trends, Patterns and Possibilities

Talking Jesus Report 2022


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