Churchgoers are more likely to invite friends and family to in-person worship services than online worship experiences, according to the Barna Group.
In a report posted on Barna Wednesday from its new journal, Five Changing Contexts for Digital Evangelism, the research organization analyzed the openness of “Churched Adults” and “Churched Christians,” collectively known as churchgoers, to inviting family, friends, and acquaintances to worship.
Churched adults were defined as those who've attended church within the past six months but might not identify as Christian. Whereas churched Christians were defined as those who've attended within the past six months and self-identify as Christian.
Barna found that 61% of churched adults and 64% of churched Christians responded that they would be open to inviting someone to an in-person worship service.
By contrast, 38% of churched adults and 40% of churched Christians responded that they would be open to inviting someone to a digital worship service.
Barna also found that people who attended churches that blended digital and in-person ministry were more likely to be open to inviting someone to a digital service.
“Those who attend a church which successfully blended digital and in-person ministry even before the COVID-19 crisis are almost twice as likely to say they actually prefer inviting someone to online church rather than to in-person services (48% vs. 29% of those who did not attend a church that engaged congregants well both digitally and physically pre-pandemic),” noted the research group.
“More familiarity with digital and hybrid environments seems to accompany more confidence in bringing others into that space.”
Both categories had only 20% of respondents say they would be open to inviting a family or friend to an “in-person conversation group” for “conversations about the Christian faith.”
The idea with the least support, getting 12% acceptance from both categories, was inviting a family or friend to a “digital, one-on-one spiritual conversation.”
Research for the report was drawn from Barna’s 2020 Digital Church study, conducted online from Sept. 1-15, which had 1,302 U.S. adults and a sample error of ±2.5 percentage points.
The report also found that 25% of respondents were sending out fewer invitations to church during the pandemic, while 61% were sending out the same number as before, and 14% were sending out more.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, large numbers of churches in the U.S. canceled their in-person worship and switched to online offerings.
Since then, many churches have reported larger numbers of viewers for their online worship than they received for their in-person services pre-pandemic.
For example, in March, Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, had a record 4.51 million views for Joel Osteen’s sermons once they were posted to social media.
“This broke our previous record of 4.17 million in November of last year when we broadcast Kanye West’s Sunday service from Lakewood," a spokesperson from Lakewood told The Christian Post at the time.
Multiple New Zealand churches, including Wellington Cathedral of St. Paul, reported higher viewership for their online worship during their lockdown than in-person attendance for their services.
“After the Easter season, we began doing ‘Zoom’ services, and these were again well received. A large number of our older folk were already used to zoom as many people here have relatives elsewhere in the world,” said Pixie Rowe, spokeswoman for the Cathedral, in an earlier interview with CP.