Many churches have had to make “drastic changes” to their ministry and may not have survived Covid at all if the pandemic had been as bad as originally feared, says Andy Hunter, FIEC’s Scotland & North of England Director.
“Many churches will survive 2020 by ‘the skin of their teeth’,” said in an article on the FIEC website.
“The question is, would they have survived if Covid-19 had been as devastating as first feared or if the severe restrictions had gone on?
“If not, what radical steps might they take now to avoid closure ‘next time’?”
He said churches needed to consider investing in future leadership and forming new partnerships.
“There are, of course, no easy options or fixes but not to do anything and just hope that something will turn up is not the lesson to take from 2020.”
Hunter was recently part of an online discussion involving evangelical pastors in Scotland in which concerns were raised about the long-term viability of smaller fellowships, particularly those that rented community buildings prior to lockdown which they no longer have access to.
Some pastors reported a fall in people attending online church activities, and one pastor revealed that church giving had increased despite attendance falling, suggesting that the financial burden is falling increasingly to committed members of the congregation.
Those who have “strong connections” with other church members “have endured the best”, Hunter said, while others with weaker ties are gradually falling away.
“The big spike in online viewing has waned – one leader spoke of watching his church website visitor numbers slowly fall week by week,” Hunter said.
“The fringe of those more loosely connected to church feels increasingly frayed as their visibility and participation seems to diminish.”
Despite the challenges, Hunter said the pandemic had created “new and exciting opportunities” for churches to serve and connect with their communities,
“People have come to faith through volunteering in church-run social care activities,” he said.
“There is some evidence of a new openness to the gospel with people joining online courses to ask the big questions about life.
“Local agencies and politicians have appreciated the work and prayers of churches for them and Scottish communities.”