COVID-19 gravely impacted convening and delivery methods for Black churches. Many leaders found themselves thrust into digital ministry for the first time following mandates and calls for social distancing and pandemic precautions. At the same time, as the Black population in the U.S. was hit harder by the virus, many Black churches adapted to offer support or share grief, even from a distance. As such, in the midst of the pandemic response, Barna data revealed more than one-third of Black Church churchgoers felt great concern about the long-term impact of COVID-19 on their church (35% strongly agree).
The Trends in the Black Church study—conducted in partnership with Rev. Dr. Brianna K. Parker (of Black Millennial Cafe), Gloo, Urban Ministries, Inc., LEAD.NYC, American Bible Society and Compassion—offered researchers a chance to follow up with both Black Church pastors and congregants, asking how the pandemic had affected their faith communities. The vast majority of Black Church congregants (64% strongly agree) feels their church responded well to the pandemic. Across the board, larger churches were more likely to be ready and resourced to embrace the digital and hybrid space, compared to smaller churches.
The following infographic offers a glimpse into what members and leaders in the Black Church say has and hasn’t changed—for better or for worse.
Data show that the pandemic pushed Black Church pastors to innovate and challenged their ability to disciple people digitally during the pandemic. Even now, as churches emerge from COVID-era regulations, pastors and their people wonder if or how these shifts will continue to shape the trajectory of their ministry strategy.
Additional reading about digital ministry and the Black Church:
- Get more data on COVID’s impact on the Black Church and pastors’ thoughts on digital and hybrid ministry in Trends in the Black Church, available in the Barna Shop or on Barna Access Plus
- Read a Q&A with Nona Jones about Tips for Leading Online
- Learn more about the Trends in the Black Church report here
About the Research
2020 data: Online survey of 1,083 U.S. Black adults, plus 822 Black Church churchgoers, conducted April 22–May 6, 2020. The sample error is plus or minus 2.3 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
The pastor data includes 293 online surveys conducted among Black pastors who consider their church to be a Black church or a predominately Black church. A follow-up question was asked to ensure that at least half of the congregation was Black, although 93% of these pastors lead churches in which more than three-quarters of their congregants are Black. Pastors included in the survey who have another pastor over him / her must report to a pastor who is also Black. The research was conducted August 26-October 1, 2020. The sample error is plus or minus 5.6 percent at the 95 percent confidence level.
Black Church churchgoers are defined by the racial identity of the pastor and the majority of the congregation:
- Self-identifies as Black
- Self-identifies as “Christian”
- Over the past year, on average, attends a church worship service at least “once every six months”
- Considers their church “a Black church”
- Notes that their senior pastor is Black
- Notes that if that senior pastor has another pastor over him / her, that pastor is also Black
- Notes that their congregation is primarily Black
The study also provides opportunity to further segment and analyze this group by associations with historically Black denominations.
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
© Barna Group, 2021