Many Americans say worship has become even more important to them in COVID times despite significant changes in how they participate
MERRILL, Wis. – COVID-19 has altered nearly every aspect of daily life in America. The sacred act of worship is no exception. Whether in a mosque, temple, church, an alternative sanctuary or online, how we worship is fundamentally different today than it was just a year ago. Even more striking is the increasing importance worship plays in peoples’ lives.
According to new data from Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. (a stock insurer)1, a strong majority of worshippers (92%) feel worship remains as important in their lives or has gained importance during COVID-19. Among those who said it has become even more important (42%), the top two reasons were: connection to a higher power; and solace/comfort in stressful times. These findings are the first from Church Mutual’s 2021 “COVID, Safety and Security Study2,” which surveyed approximately 1,200 Americans.
“Despite challenges stemming from location and technology, as well as the heightened stress and pandemonium of daily life during a pandemic, people are finding a compelling reason to connect with what’s important to them,” said Rich Poirier, president and CEO of Church Mutual. “As our nation continues to navigate a COVID recovery, the changes we’re seeing will drive a new era in worship, and in many cases, strengthen peoples’ relationship with their faith.”
The rise of virtual worship
Compared to a year ago when participation in virtual worship services was minimal, one in three people now say that they have started attending virtually as a result of COVID. And seniors are just as likely to participate virtually as younger generations.
Moreover, while video fatigue plagues much of the nation – especially in the workplace – worshippers have a kinder view toward today’s use of streaming technology. Overall, while there is a ‘disinterest’ in virtual participation, there is no ‘dislike’ or ‘hatred’ toward it.
“To us, the survey clearly indicates that virtual participation is playing a role in the evolution of worship,” Poirier said. “Even with vaccination efforts making significant progress, we believe that technology and virtual services are going to be valuable for inclusive worship post-pandemic.”
While there is acceptance of online options, in-person, physical locations are still the strong preference for worship, with 60% of respondents choosing attending in-person services over virtual. “Physical locations will always remain very important,” Poirier stressed, “but a house of worship that continues to offer some degree of online access while also gathering in person can provide flexibility for all worshippers,” concluded Poirier.
With that in mind, Poirier advises house of worship leaders to “remain nimble” to plan for safety risks both on-site and online.
Church Mutual will release additional data from its 2021 study relating to safety and security challenges facing today’s houses of worship in June 2021.
About Church Mutual
Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I., founded in 1897, offers specialized insurance for religious organizations of all denominations, public and private K-12 schools, colleges and universities, senior living facilities, secular and non-secular camps and conference centers, and nonprofit and human services organizations throughout the United States. Church Mutual markets most lines of commercial property and liability insurance, including multi-peril, workers' compensation and commercial auto insurance. In addition to insurance, Church Mutual provides a spectrum of value-added solutions that benefit its customers. Church Mutual holds the following honors:
• A.M. Best Company "A" (excellent) rating
• Wisconsin 75 Top Private Company by Deloitte US, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020
• Wisconsin 75 Distinguished Performer: Innovation by Deloitte US 2019
• 2021 Gallup Culture Transformation Award recipient
• 2020 Women and Diversity Award recipient from the American Property Casualty Insurance Association
• Futuremakers Partner by Wisconsin Technical College System
• Celent Model Insurer for innovation and emerging technologies
• Award in Innovation for entrepreneurialism and innovation by National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies
• 2018-2019 Employer of the Year by Northcentral Technical College
1Church Mutual is a stock insurer whose policyholders are members of the parent mutual holding company formed on 1/1/20. S.I. = a stock insurer.
2Church Mutual Insurance Company conducted an online survey through SMS Research Advisors, The Church Mutual 2021 COVID, Safety & Security Study, in March 2021 with a nationally representative sample of 1,206 adults aged 18-87.
Richard V. Poirier, J.D. CEO
Rich can speak to senior leadership perspectives, top needs of houses of worship today, leading companies through crisis & insurance trends.