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Small churches close from low attendance

In-person attendance at churches is declining, leading some small churches to close.

Jason Bruner, associate professor of religious studies at Arizona State University, said the closures are caused by multiple factors, including changing faith demographics, the appeal of virtual attendance post-COVID-19 and competition from megachurches.

“There’s something about that in-person-ness that’s absolutely lost," Bruner said. "In some part of that, being able to hug someone or share some kind of celebration or sorrow with them in a physical way, a lot of people who are a part of churches or other religious communities, that’s what they deeply value about them.”

Sarah Stadler, a pastor at Grace Lutheran Church in Phoenix, said that people are always yearning for a sense of community despite the decline in organized religion.

“We’re there for each other. And, I know that a lot of people feel alone." Stadler said. "They don’t have anyone to rely on and I think that when churches close, it really does affect people in the intimacy of their lives.”

Stadler, Bruner and other experts said that despite the decline in public participation, faith itself remains high.

Scott Daniels was an intern at KJZZ in 2022.