Local Pastors Say Covid 19 Has Brought Challenges And Opportunities

TUPELO, MISS. (WCBI) – A new study by a market research firm studying the religious beliefs and behavior of Americans is asking pastors whether they think church attendance will rebound after Covid 19.

The report by the Barna Group found forty-six percent of pastors expect a slight decline in attendance when Covid 19 is over, while Six percent expect a dramatic decline.

For local pastors, Covid 19 has meant a year of challenges and opportunities.

Earlier this summer, Belden Baptist Church opened its doors for in-person services.

Earlier this year, Belden Baptist went to online services because of COVID-19.
It continues to provide that option for those who aren’t quite ready to attend church in person.

Attendance has been down about 20 percent, but church leaders don’t believe this will be a permanent drop.

“We have a lot of our elderly that are still staying at home, those that are staying away from the crowds, rightfully so, but we are doing Facebook Live, YouTube Live to minister, we have online Sunday School, Zoom , I do a devotion everyday, so we’re doing things to continue to engage them,” said Belden Baptist Pastor Dr. Shane McGivney

Belden Baptist found when it resumed its Wednesday night activities more people showed up than before the pandemic started.

“We’re unique, our location allows us to have nine high schools from the area, so a lot of our students don’t go to school together, this is where they come together and see each other, so they were missing that social aspect of seeing their friends from other schools and other areas,” said Belden Youth Pastor Chris Terry.

Dr. Keith Cochran is pastor of West Jackson Street Baptist Church. He encourages pastors and church leaders to focus on people, instead of predictions and statistics about the future.

“For us as a church we need to go be the church by individually, one on one relationships, build those relationships with our neighbors, co workers so we can share the gospel then move them in a big group setting as we start growing and discipling new believers,” Dr. Cochran said.

While the nationwide temporary closing of many churches has meant fewer people in the pews, church leaders say it’s also an opportunity to re evaluate the methods, without changing the message.

Pastors at both churches say giving hasn’t been substantially impacted. There are many apps that allow church members to support the work of the church and its ministries.

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