As the COVID-19 pandemic continued around our world in late 2020, the effects on families and individuals started to be measured in more quantifiable ways. As a denomination, the Church of the Nazarene desired to know what the specific effects of the pandemic were on the lives and ministries of churches and pastors. Research Services, under the direction of Dr. Richard Houseal, conducted a global survey of Nazarene pastors and recently has made known the results on the denomination’s website and through Nazarene News. Several findings jump out and will be summarized below, but the entire report can be read and downloaded at the following link: https://d31hzlhk6di2h5.cloudfront.net/20210203/d8/4e/a4/e1/9312960f17938ec612bf3e72/Impact_of_Pandemic_on_Nazarene_Churches_and_Pastors.pdf.
First, it’s important to note a few things:
- These findings are based on a short, online survey consisting of six questions about the local church and two questions concerning the pastor. Additionally, there were two demographic questions concerning region and worship attendance. There was also an optional, open-ended question, which asked, “Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your ministry, or your church’s ministry, in response to the pandemic?”
- Although the survey was translated into 10 languages and sent to every region and field around the world, an overwhelming majority of responses were received in three main languages: English, Spanish, and Portuguese. Also, in many parts of the world, asking pastors to complete an online survey is still problematic or even untenable due to the high-cost and/or limited availability of internet.
- 2,191 usable surveys were received, representing 10.1% of the potential churches contacted. A large portion of the total responses received came from three primary regions: 47.1% were from USA/Canada, 20.8% from South America, and 17.0% from Mesoamerica.
Here are the most interesting takeaways:
- A majority of pastors agreed (69.4%) that the pandemic has put the financial viability of their church at risk. The Mesoamerica Region was the most likely to agree (90.7%), while the USA/Canada Region was the most likely to disagree (46.5%).
- A majority of pastors agreed (70.8%) that their churches have struggled to adapt to the pandemic’s restrictions. Around 85% of pastors on the Mesoamerica and South America Regions agreed with the statement, while less than 60% of pastors on the USA/Canada Region agreed.
- Responses to the statement, “Because of the pandemic, the ministries of this church face an uncertain future,” were evenly divided between those who agreed (50.6%) and those who disagreed (49.4%). Interestingly enough, findings indicate that churches with higher attendance tended to feel their ministries were more stable, while churches with lower attendance numbers responded in the affirmative more often (indicating that they did feel uncertainty with regards to their ministries).
- A majority of pastors agreed (57.3%) with the statement, “The ministries of this church continue without major disruption.”
- A large majority of pastors agreed (88.1%) with the statement, “This church has identified and embraced new opportunities for ministry since the pandemic.” A whopping 96.7% of pastors on the Asia-Pacific Region agreed with the statement, compared to 84.6% of pastors on the USA/Canada Region. As attendance size increased, so did the percentage of pastors in agreement with the statement.
- A large majority of pastors agreed (83.8%) that their church will emerge stronger from the pandemic. More than 35% of pastors from the Asia-Pacific, Mesoamerica, and South America Regions strongly agreed with the statement, while less than 20% of pastors on the USA/Canada Region strongly agreed.
- A majority of pastors disagreed (69.5%) with the statement, “Personally, the pandemic is making it difficult for me to continue in ministry.” Only 4.1% strongly agreed with the statement.
- A large majority of pastors agreed (84.5%) with the statement, “Personally, the pandemic has given my ministry new significance.” More than 90% of pastors in the Asia-Pacific, Mesoamerica, and South America Regions agreed with the statement, compared to 76% of pastors in the USA/Canada Region.
Nazarene Research Services concluded by noting that “responses to the survey show a mixture of struggle, adaptation, and optimism for the future.” Some uncomfortable conclusions arose, such as, “A majority of pastors said that the financial viability of their church was at risk,” and “The thought that one in ten pastors is having difficulty continuing in ministry is alarming.”
However, some encouraging findings also came out. Although there are struggles, many pastors reported that their churches were adjusting to the conditions presented by the pandemic. Likewise, many pastors expressed an optimism for the future in that a large majority agreed that their church will emerge stronger from the pandemic. “The relationship between these two statements,” Houseal says, “gives hope in that churches that identify and embrace new opportunities during the pandemic may indeed emerge from the pandemic in a stronger position.”
What are your takeaways from this survey? Do these findings match what you and your local church have been experiencing in the last year?