A majority of U.S. Christians are open to being part of a faith community that does not meet in a building, according to a Barna Group report published April 12.

The COVID-19 pandemic compelled most houses of faith to shift from primarily in-person gatherings to mostly online approaches. While congregations have returned to in-person meetings, U.S. Christians remain open to the online-only approach.

Barna Group asked respondents to indicate if they would be very likely, somewhat likely or not likely to attend “if your church decided to no longer meet in a dedicated church building.” A majority (60%) said they would be “very likely” (29%) or “somewhat likely” (31%) to attend online, while 40% said they would “not likely” want to attend online.

A majority of U.S. Christians affirmed the following statements: “community can be formed online” (64%), “meaningful relationship can be built online” (63%), “I can grow my religious faith online” (61%), “I can experience God online” (57%) and “I can grow closer to Jesus online” (55%).

Despite this openness to online gatherings, most Christians also say that in-person events, gatherings and services are more meaningful in person. Children’s ministry (72%), meeting people’s physical needs (72%), emotional support (71%), welcoming visitors (71%) and ministry to the elderly (70%) had the highest percentage of respondents say these faith expressions are more meaningful in person.

“While Christians demonstrate an understanding that the Church transcends physical space, there is still a desire for the church building to be the central location of its gatherings and activity, over other possible forums for ministry,” the report said.

The full report is available here. The margin of error is plus or minus two percentage points.

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