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COVID-19: Almost half of black churchgoers prefer hybrid church model

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic which could likely have its third wave, a study has shown that more than 40 percent of black churchgoers want to keep a hybrid church model.

The study shows how Black churchgoers have adapted so well to online churches amid the pandemic. Exactly 41% of them now favour a hybrid model of in-person and online services, even after COVID-19 is no longer deemed a threat. Seven percent of them would rather their church services remain digital going forward.

The new study titled Trends in the Black Church, which was conducted in partnership with the Rev. Brianna K. Parker of Black Millennial Cafe, Gloo, Urban Ministries, Inc., LEAD.NYC, American Bible Society and Compassion examined how the pandemic affected black faith communities. After gathering enough data through follow-up with a group of 1,083 U.S. black adults and 822 black churchgoers who had participated in an online survey conducted April 22–May 6, 2020, the study shows that the pandemic pushed black church pastors to innovate and challenged their ability to disciple people digitally during the pandemic.

According to Barna Research, as churches emerge from COVID-era regulations, pastors and their people wonder if or how these shifts will continue to shape the trajectory of their ministry strategy.

As of September last year, the follow-up data showed that three out of five black adults had watched services online during the pandemic. According to the study, some 47% of black adults who participated in church during the pandemic said the experience made them more open to digital church, while an equal percentage who attended church online in the past six months said they favoured in-person gatherings going forward.

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“The vast majority of black church congregants, (64% strongly agree) feels their church responded well to the pandemic. Across the board, larger churches were more likely to be ready and resourced to embrace the digital and hybrid space, compared to smaller churches,” Barna Research noted.

The age of convenience has seen a strong appreciation for the online church in his own congregation.

“The culture right now, we’re in a culture of convenience when it comes to church. That’s real. We surveyed our people (congregation) … and the larger percentage of our people are enjoying service at home,” The Rev. A.R. Bernard, leader of New York City’s 40,000-member Christian Cultural Center, which caters to a strong African American audience, told The Christian Post in a recent interview.

On his own part, Carey Nieuwhof, a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, said it’s likely the hybrid church will stick around even after the pandemic because a post-modern cultural shift has taken place.

“Perhaps the deepest threat to in-person attendance comes from a cultural possibility …, that we might be entering into a relatively selfish me-centred behaviour that might relegate churches even farther to the sidelines than they were pre-pandemic,” he wrote.

“Among the many characteristics of post-Christian, postmodern spirituality, three stand out when it comes to future attendance trends. Postmodern spirituality is: self-directed, anti-institutional, selective,” he wrote.

“In other words, people will pick and choose what they want to do. That goes from choosing a favourite preacher to listen to, to deciding to watch from home or on the go, and even (you’ve already seen this) tenets of the faith they are inclined to embrace and tenets they’re inclined not to,” he added.

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