More Australians return to religious services in the 2nd year of the pandemic

Religious service attendance rises in 2021

One in five Australians were frequent attenders at religious services in 2021. After a slump in reported attendance in 2020, more Australians say they have attended religious services in 2021, returning to levels prior to the pandemic. Some 22% of Australians reported attending religious services in 2019; falling to 16% in 2020, and returning to 21% in 2021. Some 16% of Australians say they are willing to use online platforms to discuss questions of Christian faith.  

Attendance at religious services before and during the pandemic

In each Australian Community Survey run by NCLS Research, Australians have been asked the following question: “Apart from such special occasions as weddings, funerals, etc., how often do you attend religious services?”. (In 2021 a separate question also asked about attending online). 

The results across five years show an increase in attendance from 18% in 2016 up to 22% in 2019. In 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, attendance dropped to 16%. However, in 2021, around one in five Australians (21%) report attending religious services frequently i.e. at least monthly.

Among frequent attenders in 2021, 13% of Australians attend religious services weekly or more often. 

A further 30% of Australians are infrequent attenders: this is made up of 12% who go once or a few times a year and 18% who attend less than yearly. Around half of all Australians in 2021 (49%) report that they never attend religious services.

 

A quarter go online for religious services during pandemic 

When asked specifically if they attend religious worship services online e.g. via Zoom, nearly a quarter of Australians said they attend religious services online, both in 2020 and 2021. This has remained constant during both years of the pandemic.

Around 6% of Australians attend special events such as baptisms and funerals online and around one in ten (11%) is a regular attender online.

Faith discussion groups online  

As churches look forward, some are giving consideration to the use of online platforms for worship services and groups, into the future. Some 16% of Australians affirm their willingness to use a digital platform online e.g. Zoom to discuss questions of Christian faith.

Related eNews articles (Dec 2021)

The spiritual identity of Australians in 2021

Spiritual and religious self perceptions of Australians

Four in ten Australians have contact with churchgoers

Relational connections with family and friends who go to church

Is Jesus real to Australians?

Australians' views of who Jesus is

Authors:
Ruth Powell, Kathy Jacka
Data Sources:

2021 Australian Community Survey run by NCLS Research, November 2021 (n = 1,286)

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