Home Christian News Virtual Worshippers Often Satisfied, but More Americans Choose In-Person Services

Virtual Worshippers Often Satisfied, but More Americans Choose In-Person Services

There also is a distinct difference in the feelings of connection depending on whether Americans worship online or in person.

Chart by the Pew Research Center

Chart by the Pew Research Center

About two-thirds of regular in-person attenders say they feel “quite a bit” or “a great deal” of connection with other attenders, choosing the highest two options on a five-point scale. Just 28% of regular virtual viewers report the same sense of connection with in-person attenders while they, the virtual participants, are watching on TV or online. And a somewhat smaller percentage — 22% — of virtual observers say they feel a strong connection to others watching virtually.

Of the quarter or so Americans who continue to use screens to take part in worship services, three-quarters say they prefer the in-person experience, compared with 11% who prefer watching on TV or online and 14% who say they don’t have a preference.

Among the people who are most likely to watch church services virtually are members of historically Black Protestant denominations. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) say they watch online at least monthly or did so in the month before the survey, compared with 47% of evangelicals, 28% of mainline Protestants, 24% of Catholics and 19% of Jews.

Two in 10 of these Black Protestants solely watch remotely via screens, 37% attend virtually and in person and more than 1 in 10 (13%) say they are in-person attenders who don’t regularly choose to watch virtual services.

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Black Protestant church members also are more likely than viewers of some other faiths to say they feel like active participants in services they’re watching virtually. They also were the group with the largest percentage — 25%— of people who watch services of another congregation in addition to or other than their own.

Members of historically Black Protestant churches (37%), along with evangelical Protestants (28%), are the most likely to engage at least weekly in religious technology, including apps for prayer or Scripture or religious study groups. About 12% each of Catholics, Jews and mainline Protestants are considered heavy users of religious technology.

Chart by the Pew Research Center

Chart by the Pew Research Center

Other findings of the survey on religion and technology included:

  • 30% of U.S. adults say they use online searches to gain religious information.
  • 21% use websites or apps to help them read the Bible and other Scriptures.
  • 15% listen to podcasts focused on religion.
  • 14% use websites or apps as reminders to pray.

More than half of U.S. adults — 54% — say they never use apps for prayer, Scripture study or religious information, nor do they listen to religious podcasts.

The online survey of 11,377 respondents was conducted between Nov. 16 and 27, 2022, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.4 percentage points. Margin of error for subgroups varied widely, including plus or minus 2.9 percentage points for evangelical Protestants and 5.3 percentage points for historically Black Protestants and 9.8 for Jewish respondents.