Impact of COVID-19 on the American Church

If you're a pastor or church leader, we want to hear your story. How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your church's financial health, staffing, and ministry?

About the Study

COVID-19 and the Church: Uncovering and Quantifying its Impact is a one-year research project conducted by ChurchSalary, a resource of Christianity Today, and Arbor Research Group. A crucial element of the project is this comprehensive survey, supported by a grant from the Lilly Endowment, Inc.

Additionally, this study hopes to uncover whether the pandemic disproportionately impacted church communities along ethnic, demographic, denominational, and socioeconomic lines.

To show our appreciation for completing this survey, you’ll have the chance to win an iPad Air or a $100 Amazon gift card. Plus, all participants will receive three free gifts from ChurchSalary and Christianity Today.

Study Sponsors


Who can participate in this study?    

ChurchSalary and Arbor Research Group want to hear from a wide range of church and parachurch leaders. Participants should be current or former leaders who have knowledge of the finances and staffing of your church or parachurch ministry. If this does not apply to you, please pass this survey along to your church leader(s) and encourage them to participate. We want to hear your stories.

How can I participate?

The first stage of research is already underway. If you are a church leader with knowledge of the finances and staffing at your church or parachurch ministry, click here to participate in our first survey.

Within the survey, you can indicate if you are interested in participating in subsequent rounds of research including a focus panel and in-person interviews.

How is this study different?

Rather than seeking to validate or invalidate an assumption based on a single round of quantitative research, this project will reach into the corners of communities across the country using a multi-layered methodology known as “grounded theory.” The findings from an initial round of quantitative research will shape and inform a subsequent a second round of qualitative research conducted using online focus groups of pastors and onsite “case study” visits to representative cities or regions of the USA.

What questions does this study hope to answer?

To quantify and uncover the impact of COVID-19 on the church this research will seek to answer the following important questions. As a result of COVID-19:

Which churches are decreasing, increasing, or stabilizing attendance as well as the size of their staff, compensation, and budgets?

How many churches have closed? How many new churches were planted?

How are churches changing the titles and the responsibilities of their employees?

Are pastors being fired or are they becoming bivocational?

How have budgets and expenses for churches and resourcing/networking agencies changed or shifted?

What is the role of mental health concerning the financial and social/racial implications in congregations?

In what ways has the church been re-shaped due to its embrace of technology during the pandemic? How has technology reshaped the mission of the church and related networks?

Are these impacts being felt disproportionately among multicultural or minority churches?

Ultimately, this study hopes to identify why some churches fared better than others during the pandemic and what makes a “healthy church.”

Which churches will be included in this study?

While this study aims to capture data from pastors and churches of all sizes, shapes, and ethnicities, we recognize that non-majority voices tend to be underrepresented in these broad surveys. This can create a false perception that all churches are healthy or remain largely unaffected by the pandemic.

This multi-layered research project will address issues of bias, convenience, sampling, and the underrepresentation of non-majority voices by seeking out and listening to pastors and churches in minority communities through face-to-face interviews.  

About Us

ChurchSalary was born out of the National Initiative to Address Economic Challenges Facing Pastoral Leaders funded by the Lilly Endowment Inc.

Extensive research in the US shows that many, if not most, pastors are facing serious financial stress and obstacles. Pastors who are poorly compensated experience high levels of financial anxiety, struggle to make ends meet, and often end up considering a future outside of ministry to meet their financial needs.

ChurchSalary is committed to helping church leaders and pastors develop an atmosphere of healthy financial stewardship in the area of church compensation by providing customizable salary reports based on over 24,000 survey records collected from churches across the country.

Learn more about ChurchSalary and our salary reports here.

Arbor Research Group is an exclusive team of research and HR experts who help organizations solve multifaceted problems using customized and collaborative projects of all types and sizes. Arbor empowers mission-drive organizations to take their next steps with confidence by helping organizations gain the quality data and rich insights they need using custom but cost-conscious methodologies.

Learn more about Arbor Research Group here

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