Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog and Commentary

Four Surveys, Four Headlines

There have been a number of telling surveys of late, giving us a snapshot of how people are doing and how life is going at this stage in the pandemic and the world it has created.

First, almost all churches are now gathering in person. According to Lifeway Research, almost all U.S. Protestant pastors (98%) say their church met in person in August. Less clear is the return of the churchgoer. According to Scott McConnell, executive director of Lifeway Research, “There is still a large gap between today’s in-person attendance and pre-COVID levels.” A plurality of pastors report current attendance at between 50% and 70% of what they had before March 2020.

Second, children’s screen time has doubled during the pandemic and, according to researchers from the University of California-San Francisco, it hasn’t gone down since. Children are spending almost eight hours a day looking at smartphones, tablets and televisions, compared to less than four hours before COVID. Adding to the concern is that this figure does not include the time spent on computers for schoolwork. Researchers focused exclusively on recreational activities such as social media, texting, internet surfing, and watching or streaming movies.

Third, according to the 2021 American Values Survey conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), we are a deeply divided nation on just about everything: whether culture has changed for better or worse since the 1950s, religious diversity, immigration, race and racism, abortion. About the only thing the majority of all Americans agree on is that overall, they are proud to be an American, believe that America is a force for good, and central to being an American is individual freedoms, such as freedom of speech… and a deeply shared distrust of American government.  

Fourth, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a mental health crisis that may be battled for years. Reports show a steady rise in anxiety and depression. While overall suicide rates fell during COVID, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, they increased among the young and people of color. For example, rates increased by 13% in those ages 10 to 14 and increased 5% among Hispanic males.

All to say, we have a lot to work on that all the vaccines in the world will never be able to solve.

James Emery White


Aaron Earls, “Almost All Churches and Most Churchgoers Are Now Gathering in Person,” Lifeway Research, November 2, 2021, read online.

“Children’s Screen Time Doubled During Pandemic — And Hasn’t Changed Much Since,” Study Finds, November 1, 2021, read online.

“Competing Visions of America: An Evolving Identity or a Culture Under Attack? Findings from the 2021 American Values Survey,” PRRI, November 1, 2021, read online.

Adrianna Rodriguez, “Overall suicide rates fell during COVID-19 but increased among young and people of color, study finds,” USA Today, November 4, 2021, read online.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I Believe” is now available on Amazon or your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

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