National Institute on Aging

How the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Black Church Attendance

A new study from the Pew Research Center examines how the COVID-19 pandemic affected attendance at religious services in the United States. The share of U.S. adults who say they generally attend religious services once a month or more has dropped slightly, from 33 percent in 2019 to 30 percent in 2022. One-in-five Americans say they now attend in person less often than they did before the pandemic.

In July 2020 – when many churches, synagogues, mosques, and other houses of worship were limiting attendance or closed to physical worshippers – 41 percent of adults said they had joined in religious services in one of these ways (either in person or virtually) in the past month. By March 2022, in-person or virtual attendance increased to 43 percent but dropped to 40 percent in November 2022.

Nearly 70 percent of Black Protestant adults attended church either in person or online during the month before the most recent survey. For all adults, only 40 percent attended church either in person or online.

Black Protestants have experienced a substantial bounce in physical attendance, from a low of 14 percent  in July 2020 to 41 percent in the most recent survey. But Black Americans also have suffered a disproportionately high share of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths relative to White Americans. Black Protestants remain the U.S. religious group most likely to be viewing services virtually. At the height of the pandemic, two-thirds of Black Protestants reported they participated in virtual services over the past month. In the most recent survey, 54 percent of Black Protestants say they participated in services online or on TV in the last month, compared with 46 percent of White evangelical Protestants and smaller shares of Catholics (20 percent), White non-evangelical Protestants (19 percent) and Jews (16 percent).

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