TRUSSVILLE — On Sunday mornings in recent years, it has become convenient to crack open a laptop, pull the phone out, or Chromecast a service from a local church while relaxing in front of the television or lying in bed. At the same time, COVID concerns justified taking precautions for the safety of congregations; most if not all restrictions and mandates have been lifted. This leaves us with poignant questions: “How severely has in-person church attendance truly declined?”; “Will we ever see our local churches back to full capacity?”; “Why does it even matter?”
Initially, it’s essential first to understand where church attendance was trending pre-COVID. According to Dr. Wendy Wang (Director of Research at the Institute for Family Studies), “one-in-three practicing Christians dropped out of church completely during COVID-19. Last June, AP broke a story about many houses of worship in the U.S. that were shuttered forever due to the pandemic.”
In Wang’s article in the Institue of Family Studies, she states that online worshippers could potentially replace empty pews. However, there is no available data supporting this claim, and if people no longer decide to attend church in person, then the social bonds that are built will weaken.
Wang stated that social support can help with depression, lower suicide rates, and less drug and alcohol overdoses, and if people choose not to be social then those benefits will not be impacted. Also, people who no longer practice religion could affect their emotions and could be more likely to experience anxiety and insecurities.
On a smaller scale, local area churches haven’t seen anywhere close to this decline in attendance. Many have seen a slow increase. Gresh Harbuck, Senior Pastor of ONEeighty Church in Springville, states, “I know a lot of my pastor friends are running around 60 percent. We are back to about 80 percent at ONEeighty.”
Harbuck said that it’s about accountability that will lead a congregation back to a sense of normalcy.
“One of our core values here is, ‘you can’t do life alone.’ It’s absolutely biblical not to forget to meet in person, to encourage one another,” Harbuck said. “It’s accountability. You can’t serve when you’re sitting at home. Relationships are what keep people in the church. Most people will come to church because of the worship or the preaching, and they will stay for a season for those reasons but only for a season. The reason they stay long term is because of the relationships if they are there long enough to get connected and bond.”
Church of The Holy Cross Trussville, Father Clark Hubbard, questioned if people genuinely participated when watching church online.
“The Christian faith is an incarnational faith. God came to us in the form of a human being through Jesus. Jesus said, ‘where 2 or 3 people are gathered together, I am with them,'” Hubbard said. “We’ve become such a digital society now that everything becomes a screen. When you watch a service online, you may watch most of it, but you may not get all of it. When you watch online, are you watching the worship part of the service? Are you singing? To what level of authenticity are you really participating?”
Easter is this coming Sunday. What better time to get back to face-to-face fellowship. Visit somewhere new. Revisit the church you grew up in, or brighten the day of that neighbor or friend who’s been inviting you by accepting their offer to sit with them. Locally there are several options to attend. Here are a few:
- Argo Christian Fellowship
- Easter Sunday 9:00 a.m. Traditional / 10:15 a.m. Contemporary
- 936 Hwy 11 in Trussville
- Church of The Holy Cross Trussville
- Maundy Thursday Service 6:00 p.m. / Good Friday Service 6:00 p.m.
- Easter Sunday 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.
- 90 Parkway Drive in Trussville
- First Baptist Trussville
- Good Friday Service 6:00 p.m.,
- Easter Sunday 8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m., and 11:00 a.m.
- 128 North Chalkville Road in Trussville
- Jefferson Memorial Funeral Home
- Easter Sunrise Service 6:30 a.m.
- Garden of Old Rugged Cross
- 1591 Gadsden Hwy in Birmingham
- ONEeighty Church Springville
- Good Friday Service 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
- Easter Sunday 8:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.
- 5770 US HWY 11 in Springville