Survey: Online, In-person Church Services Complement Each Other

Shenyang Liaozhong Christian church held the first online communion service on May 17, 2020.
Shenyang Liaozhong Christian church held the first online communion service on May 17, 2020. (photo: CCD contributor:Li zhen)
By CCD contributor: Song GuangAugust 27th, 2020

A survey on online church services in the post-pandemic era showed that online and in-person church services complement each other.

According to the survey conducted in early August, pastors, elders, preachers and full-time staff accounted for 40% of the participants. Ordinary believers accounted for 60%. It shows that church leaders were aware of the need for online ministry.

The survey found that the gender difference between male and female participants was relatively large. Men accounted for 27% whereas women accounted for 73%.

A pastor in northeastern China said that the proportion revealed that female believers exceeded males in online ministry, so the direction of the services should be adjusted accordingly. Since most women were interested in family and child education, lectures on marriage and family and children's education could be more preferable. As men were more interested in career development, so more studies on such issues from the Bible should be organised.

In the survey, 41 to 50-year-olds made up 26%, and 51 to 60-year-olds accounted for 28%. That indicated they could be the main body of attention because their time was more stable. Participants between 20 and 30 accounted for 11% and 31 – 40-year-olds 20%.

Regarding the education level of the participants, 39% were below junior school. 27% went to junior and high school. 34% were graduates with a bachelor's degree or above. During the survey, most participants with higher education levels were more willing to think about online ministry and services.

Ninety-seven percent of all participants responded that they regularly attended online worship and listened to sermons or accepted other forms of online services.

With regard to whether online services could meet their spiritual needs, 24% responded with “completely agree,” amounting to nearly a quarter of the participants. 47% responded with “not quite completely agree.” So, less than half of the participants held such an opinion. 16% replied with “sometimes agree,” 10% “not completely agree” and 0% “not at all agree.”

As to which online platforms are adopted during the outbreak, WeChat or WeChat groups accounted for 45%, WeChat public accounts 18%, ZOOM and Tencent Conference 10%, live broadcast platforms 14%, other platforms 7%, and no online ministry 3%.

Fourteen percent of the participants thought that online ministry could replace onsite church ministry, 78% did not agree and 7 % did not know.

After the outbreak, 67% would continue to receive online services, 17% would not and 16% were not sure.

It can be seen that many brothers and sisters have become accustomed to receiving pastoral care online. It does not only indicate that they benefited from it, but also means that leaders should re-adjust the ideas of their pastoral ministry to take into account the actual situation of the spiritual life of the congregations. Once again it illustrates the necessity to carry out online ministry.

45% of the participants believed that the development of online ministry was an inevitable trend, 28% did not think so and 26% were uncertain.

Pastors from Northeastern Theological Seminary concluded that from the survey results, it could be seen that it was imperative to carry out online ministry. At the same time, for every pastor, the development of a public platform account was equivalent to having their own Web world which could also help them deal with the uncertainty of future social development.

Moreover, it could be seen that the majority of believers are absolutely supportive of online ministry. This was not to deny the value of the existence of the physical church, but that the Church needed to consider what could be done to ensure that better care was given to more people during this time.

Actually, online and onsite ministries should complement each other. At least in the current situation, the two forms were indispensable. Because online ministry could not meet the long-term needs of learning theology systematically, but also make up for the shortcomings of offline ministry. Believers, especially young people, might feel relaxed and even feel more authentic than offline learning. Online pastoral care would pay more attention to personal privacy so individuals could be well protected concerning certain embarrassing issues. As to issues that werehard to discuss openly, they now could be raised online without having to worry about other people's views.

Therefore, the inevitable trend of the future Church was offline ministry as its main force with online ministry as its support.

- Translated by Charlie Li

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