WACO, TX — Recent data from Pew Research highlights the effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on religious faith and family life. The information derives from a survey conducted between June 10, 2020, and Aug. 3, 2020, involving more than 14,000 adults in 14 different advanced economies.
The data from the survey shows Americans are most likely to say the pandemic has made their religious faith stronger and the faith of others in their country.
Behind the United States in those most likely to say the pandemic has increased their religious faith is Spain at 15%, Italy at 15%, and Canada at 13%.
Among those surveyed in the U.S., white evangelicals represent those most likely to say COVID-19 has boosted their faith. The data also shows that among all nations surveyed, either a majority or plurality of participants say they do not feel that religious faith has been strengthened.
Angel Alvarado is a pastor with the First Spanish Assembly of God. Service with his church is performed in both Spanish and English, as well as streamed online.
“Well we're more than just Spanish. We’re a bilingual congregation,” Alvarado said. “It opens the door for us to invite everyone.”
Asked about the Pew Research survey, Alvarado explains he would like to see the figures from less economically advanced countries than the 14 listed. He says his church has seen people exhibit a stronger commitment to their faith in countries like Venezuela amid the pandemic.
"One of the biggest things about the Assemblies of God is that we have a strong mission focus," he said. "So it's about going into these countries that don't have that strong faith and sharing that faith with them. So for instance, in Venezuela they're really struggling over there. But one of the positives is that we started helping one of the pastor's there, and she's seeing growth within her church even during this pandemic."
Alvarado says it's natural that some people say the pandemic has strengthened their religious beliefs. He's seen similar examples of the effect life-altering events, like the pandemic, have on one's spirituality.
"We have times where we have people that have gone through something difficult," he explained. "A majority of them will come and they'll share their testimony, saying, hey, I survived this, or this just happened to me. Then they require a little bit more counseling and attention because they tend to fall back into the cycle, and we don't see them as frequently."
Tommy Frazier is a pastor at Moldbreakers Fellowship in Woodway. He says his congregation represents a diverse section of the community, and sometimes even bringing together four separate churches to preach the word of God.
"That's very indicative of our church. We have people rich to poor, Black, white, and Hispanic," said Frazier.
He says he's experienced something similar to what Alvaro describes with churchgoers following difficult times or life-altering events, like the pandemic.
"We saw more people more committed to their faith following 9/11," Frazier explained. "We saw the same thing with the 2008 financial crisis."
Frazier says after those events, he saw more people committed to their faith and more people attending church. But it was only a short-term.
"After 9/11 there was an influx of churches, it went up about 70%," Frazier said. "I mean people come in but it didn't last it, you know but a few months."
While those events' impact was short-term, he believes we will see a longer-lasting effect of the pandemic in the pews and homes.
"You don't just have one thing going on right now," he said. "You've got COVID going on right now, you've got political unrest like we've never had in our country, and you've got economic failure. You include those three things, and you're going to have families come back together because they want that support from each other."
Coincidentally, the same Pew Research survey conducted in 2020 lays out that Americans are also turning to family members with whom they've grown closer amid the pandemic. In the U.S., where record numbers of young adults have moved home with their parents due to the pandemic, those surveyed in the age group 18 to 29 say their family bonds have tightened.
Alvaro says he's seen the impact among those in his congregation, and it's related to a message they delivered at the onset of the pandemic in 2020.
“At the beginning we were telling families to use this opportunity to speak to your kids to get to know who they are," he said.
Both Alvaro and Frazier say they've seen more families attending service, whether it be in-person or virtually amid the pandemic.
"I think you got two things going on in America right now," Frazier explained. "You've got a generation that wasn't raised in church and that have walked away. Then you got that generation that was raised in church, but got away from it and now they're coming back."
For now, Alvaro says he hasn't seen the steady falling off of new members attending church he's seen in years past.
"I've only... I've seen the opposite. People are still maintaining a stronger commitment to their faith," he said.
"The church is still preaching what it preached a hundred years ago," Frazier said. "So there's a constant there and I think that draws people."