John Elkins, a pastor teaching at the Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Brazoria, Texas, said 25 to 30 people have attended services recently, up from about 50 before the pandemic.
“For some, I was not political enough,” he said by email. “Some wanted more activities, others just stopped going to church. “
Sovereign Grace, a Southern Baptist church, had never offered worship services online before the pandemic. When in-person worship was cut short for a month in 2020, leaving online worship as the only option, Elkins said he was offering more crisis counseling to members of the congregation than ever before.
Friendswood United Methodist Church in suburban Houston suffered not only COVID-19-related disruption, but also flooding during a winter storm last February that rendered the sanctuary unusable. It just reopened for services this month, Pastor Jim Bass said.
Before the pandemic, Friendswoods Sunday services reportedly attracted around 900 worshipers; Bass was happy that around 650 people gathered when the shrine reopened for high-energy, music-filled services on December 5.
However, he said average attendance was only half that during most of the pandemic, creating a shortfall of $ 400,000 in expected donations.
Like many places of worship, Friendswood offered online services as an alternative to in-person attendance. He sees them as a mixed blessing – a plus for older members of the congregation worried about their health, but a deterrent for others who are increasingly disconnected from the church.