Ten Pieces of Good News We Are Hearing from Churches During the Pandemic

By Thom S. Rainer

We have a continuous feedback loop from church leaders. Through Church Answers, social media, our podcast, and our blog, we read thousands of comments each week. I am encouraged by some of the things I am seeing.

To be clear, I am not making light of the devastating impact of COVID-19 on many lives and on our economy. But in the midst of the challenges, we are hearing some of the ways God is blessing churches. Here are ten of them. 

  1. Two weeks ago, 15 percent of church leaders thought their churches would close as a consequence of the pandemic. Today, that number is down to 3 percent. There is indeed much more hope.
  1. Giving for 78 percent of churches is either the same in the pandemic as before, or it is only slightly down.
  1. Church members, for the most part, are enthusiastically adopting digital giving.
  1. Church leaders are creatively discovering ways to reach and minister to people who are viewing their streaming services.
  1. Because churches can’t meet in person, most congregations are not having business meetings, avoiding conflicts they’ve had in the past.
  1. Church members are adopting video conferencing technology with enthusiasm. It will become a key delivery mechanism for churches post COVID-19.
  1. The primary beneficiary of the video conferencing technology in churches is small groups. Churches are reporting that some small groups are consistently having 100 percent or more attendance. One church reported that their small group attendance includes more guests than any point in their known history.
  1. Pastors are reporting to us their desire to become better preachers. They are seeing the areas where they can improve as they watch the video stream of their services.
  1. Churches are becoming much more intentional about finding ways to minister to their community. One pastor told us that the pandemic has been used by God to make him fall more deeply in love with the community his church serves.
  1. Church leaders are having financial and stewardship conversations they avoided before the pandemic. They are asking tough but good questions about what really matters.

The pandemic is evil. The God we serve is using this time for His good and His glory.

Posted on April 13, 2020

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Eileen Norman says on

    We have a wonderful Pastor who has almost daily created zoom classes., discussion groups that include other denominations, and .beautiful worship services with nature visuals and recordings of our choir from the past and all with a lovely touch of watching him at this table at home with his dog joining in off and on. Some times he just schedules time to get us all in touch with each other to see how everyone is doing and if there are needs.
    But I am having a terrible temptation to organize a surprise for him the first time we are able to gather for Worship at church again. I thought it might be fitting to get everyone to show up in their pajamas!

  • I’ve enjoyed going to a virtual church service during Covid-19, visiting a church in a different city altogether, that I’ve never visited before. Fresh start. Don’t have to deal with local church politics, church gossip or Christians doing nothing for the local community & looking down their noses at the “unchurched’ as they always call people who don’t sit with them on Sunday.

    I don’t have to eat bad food, cookies, cake, donuts and get fat during after-service “fellowship” just to keep the church ladies happy. Don’t need to get involved in choirs and food pantries that I have no interest in – activities that every church just wants to throw people in, no matter what talents you might have.

    Get up on Sunday, have my coffee in my sweat pants while I listen to a pastor, get some scripture schooling, tithe and when he’s finished – I turn it off and go about my business for the day.

    Most congregations have made church services in their own image and it’s miserable for me and many other people. This new form may turn out to be a much better option.

    • Ken Baldwin says on

      Wow! You’re ROUGH on your church! Angry, too.
      Surely there is a local church somewhere close to you that can please you and meet your desires better than this poor place where you are now a member…and where you won’t have to be involved in any ministries. And it is sad, I agree, that these pathetic church ladies force tasteless pastries on you.
      Since you like finding preachers who have more to offer than your pastor, just keep on surfing. But try not to subject your current church to your abuse…or at least modify it some.

      • Roger Myers says on

        I wonder what your fellow church members’ opinion might be of you? Probably best for all if you continue looking for the “church” which pleases you the most.

    • I think you need a refresher course on what it means to be the church.

  • Carrie Renter says on

    This Covid-19 epidemic has made me look at ministry through another lens. While I was preaching in the “temple” every Sunday, there were others ie., the elderly, sick/shut-in, and those who had left the church who still needed to be reached. We WILL not go back to the familiar. I believe God desires to do a New Thing in us and through us.

  • Suddenly, It became apparent that the church of the future (my young-adult children and their families) is here . My staff and I are rolling with the punches in ministering to people in so many different ways. Each Sunday we are connecting with people who are new and those who only attended church on big Sundays.

  • Carrie Lohr says on

    11. Church attendance is up, across all size of churches.

  • #4 needed to be done prior to the pandemic. However, recently the metric got changed from people in pews to views. Now, to translate that into new members when the pandemic is over is going to require some effort to not go back to same old ways that were not working pre-pandemic. Coupled with #8, the two together were necessary and are definitely beneficial. Mediocrity won’t cut it anymore. Your “competition” is not the church down the road but the church on the other side of the country.

    • Jeff Blaisdell says on

      Yes, and this is not altogether good. I don’t think that radically increasing the competitiveness between churches through distance availability will help. A pastor who is a compassionate, loving man; gifted in personal ministry…who has been faithful to his congregation through thick and thin…and yet may not be a master preacher should retain some loyalty from his people. I don’t believe in this “shop and search” mentality that has developed since the corona virus difficulty. I believe in being part of a local conversation and not in channel-surfing for the best bang for your click. I am sure, based on all the posts, that I am the only one out here who feels this way, but, nevertheless, this is what I believe, and I am very concerned

      • Jeff Blaisdell says on

        (I meant “local CONGREGATION,” not “local conversation.”)

      • Roger Myers says on

        You are not the only one who sees this “virtual church shopping” as a significant negative impact. I appreciate a powerful, motivating sermon as much as anyone. And I hope that the sermons which I preach might fall into that category more often than not. But, the “wonderful preacher” who comes to you via YouTube, live streaming, etc. will not visit you when you are ill, will not pray for your wandering child, will not meet you at the hospital when some crisis occurs in your family, or show up at your home to offer comfort and prayer when you spouse dies. Nor will any of the other people in that “virtual congregation” know about your situation or act on your behalf to minister to you in times of need.
        Nothing will replace the care and ministry of the local pastor and local congregation.

  • The closing line made me wonder why this pandemic is considered evil.

    1. Is this a sign of cosmic warfare between the forces of good and evil?
    2. Must God go against creation’s physical laws and order to redeem us?
    3. What if the pandemic is the result of human sin? (ie. inaction by world leaders, pollution, overcrowding, poor health services, money valued over human safety)
    4. Are we looking for a miracle to alleviate our human responsibility to find a vaccine?
    5. By calling the virus evil, is God’s redemption available/unavailable to unbelievers?

    • I’ll preface my comment by saying I haven’t listened to the podcast.

      While I believe in spiritual warfare and the presence of evil in our sinful lives. I’m a bit reluctant to spiritualize the present virus issues. Fundamentally, anything that happens to us in this world is a consequence of our sin (separation from our true nature as God’s creation). Could it be caused by our actions and inaction? Possibly.

      Are we looking for a miracle for the cure? The wisdom God has provided scientists with the ability to find the cure. Is that a miracle?

      I think the pandemic is tied to the general mistrust between people and nations. With more cooperation across and within borders there may have been a more focused attempt to prevent the spread.

  • Rusty Craig says on

    Question #10 especially interests me. I wonder what some of these questions are and if you might share them so that we can also have an idea of what questions we might should be asking our own church family. Thanks for all you do!

  • Daniel Wightman says on

    Our church saw a number of viewers from closed and unreached Muslim majority nations on Easter Sunday. We were able to share the message of Christ where we never thought possible!