The COVID pandemic pressured many churches to run the gamut of responses. Some closed completely for a while. Others found hybrid ways to continue to worship: parking lot or lawn services, drive-in services, empty sanctuaries streaming a service for at-home members, and many other creative ways to continue as the church during challenging times.
Malvern Hill Baptist Church in the Camden area also created several ways to continue its services. Now that we are in the post-COVID era, churches are finding lower attendance than before COVID. That is not the case at Malvern Hill.
“Since January-February of 2020, our worship attendance has increased by nearly 40 percent,” said pastor Craig Thompson. “On an average Sunday morning, one-third of our congregation is under 18. These are evenly divided among children and teens,” he said.
“During COVID, we gave our entire facility to our children and teenagers on Wednesday evenings. Teens met in the sanctuary and kids in the gym so they could socially distance,” Thompson said.
Researcher Thom Rainer, the former president of Lifeway Christian Resources, predicted during COVID that smaller worship services would become normal, the death rate of churches would increase, churches would adopt more virtual practices, and social distancing would permanently change some traditions in the church. While that may be the case for many, or even most, churches, some churches have found ways to thrive.
A few churches even have increased their numbers beyond the pre-COVID era. Malvern Hill is one of those churches, and with one third of their attendance being under 18, it is creating a place for Gen Z.
“If I had to guess the reasons why our church has thrived post-COVID, it is because we emphasize the importance of discipleship and of the church as a family and not just a worship service,” Thompson said. “The presence of so many young people in our church brings vitality. Because the church is alive, we can reach senior adults as well as young adults.”