Across U.S., houses of worship struggle to rebuild attendance
When Westminster United Methodist Church in Houston resumed in-person services late last year, after a seven-month halt due to COVID-19, there were Sundays when only three worshippers showed up, according to the pastor, Meredith Mills.
Since then, attendance has inched back up, but it’s still only about half the pre-pandemic turnout of 160 or 170, Mills estimates.
“It’s frustrating,” she said. “People just seem to want to leave home less these days.”
Some houses of worship are faring better than Mills’ church, some worse. Polls by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows how dramatically church attendance fell during the worst of the pandemic last year, even as many say they are now returning to regular service attendance.
Among mainline Protestants, just 1 percent said in a May 2020 poll that they were attending in-person services at least once a week. In the new poll, 14 percent say they’re doing so now, compared to 16 percent who say they did in 2019.