Establishing a church identity in a COVID-19 world
Life changed after 9/11 and it seems that COVID-19 may leave an even greater footprint on our world.
As the dust continues to swirl on what the future may bring, people are responding in a variety of different ways. Some are struggling, others are taking time to re-evaluate their purpose and priorities. They are making life adjustments regarding:
- The importance of family.
- The importance of being in the present with people who matter to them.
- The realization that serving others is more purposeful than serving themselves.
- Self-isolation and loneliness are worth combating because connection matters.
- How we view the future has a far more powerful affect on how we live in the present.
This is a defining moment. Our world is going to change. There are too many variables to quantify an answer of how that may look socially, economically, and politically. Like an incoming force of nature, we can only wait and see and protect ourselves as much as possible.
Christian churches are not immune to this health crisis. They are being forced to close its doors and provide online messages, worship services, Bible studies, and even Sunday school.
If churches are deciding not to enter the digital world, they will be left in the swirling dust and more than likely close sooner than anticipated.
And this is just the beginning.
Before the pandemic arrived, Christian congregations were struggling to create an identity in their community. The secular world had increasingly deemed Christian churches to be irrelevant and out-of-touch. People were choosing to stay home on Sunday mornings rather than come to hear God’s Word. But that has suddenly shifted. People are now willing to be engaged to hear messages of hope that can be found in Christ.
The Covid-19 health crisis is providing churches with an opportunity to re-establish or create an identity. This will require adapting how they interact, engage, and communicate with their community to clarify who they are and why they exist.
How can congregations be proactive right now to take full advantage of providing an identity in a new Covid-19 world?
- Clarify your mission.
If you had to look up your church’s mission statement right now, then it probably needs to be changed.
If you are a congregational leader and you don’t know your mission statement, then it probably needs to be re-addressed.
Mission statements are course-setters. They help establish identities. They become the plum line for future decisions and ideas. They help drive and sustain activity.
If evangelism is an integral part of a congregation’s mission statement and carries with it the responsibility of member participation, then now is the time to go and do it. It means taking the next step outside of planning, teaching, and preaching about the importance of evangelism. If there is not a willingness on part of the members to verbally proclaim the gospel, then I humbly suggest not to include personal evangelism in your mission statement.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received when I first started out as a full-time evangelist twenty years ago was given by Rev. Loren Steele – a man the Lord mightily used to spread the gospel.
“Loren, what do I do?”, I asked.
He simply replied, “Just do it.”
And he was right.
- Master the fundamentals
Every professional regularly practices the basics. They understand that to become great at anything, they must master the fundamentals.
Gathering around the Word and sacraments will always be a fundamental part of a Christian congregation.
Corporate worship has been suspended and faithful members are missing it. Like good health or employment, we tend to take something for granted until it is taken away. This health crisis has given believers a greater appreciation of gathering with others for worship. When the doors of our churches open again, we can master the fundamentals and continue to regularly practice the basics. Only by the power of his Word and love for our Savior, can believers seek to graciously serve him and actively communicate the gospel.
- Talk with people
The entrance to the digital age has forced many congregations to recognize that they are reaching a new audience. Granted, the pandemic crisis is arousing interest in spiritual matters that is helping spike the views of recorded messages. A digital audience will not be going away and it will become a more pronounced front entrance to your church on Sunday morning.
If your primary vehicle to proclaim Gods Word is having people come to church on Sunday morning, then I would ask you to reconsider your evangelism strategy for a COVID-19 world.
Digital access will be one important way to communicate the gospel, but only ought to serve as a supplement to help equip and inspire members to go out into the community. Talking with people will still be the primary and most effective way to give reasons for the hope we have in Christ.
The pandemic crisis is providing opportunities and awareness for our members to engage and connect. In the midst of self-quarantine and stay at home restrictions, we no longer have to isolate ourselves once the restrictions have been lifted. And the same ought to be with our life as a Christian. We no longer have to isolate or self-quarantine ourselves from providing reasons for the hope we have in Christ.
Proclaiming the gospel doesn’t necessarily mean inviting their presence to hear God’s Word on Sunday mornings. It can start by talking to people, connecting with them, and empathize with people’s pains and fears.
- Take advantage of technology
The digital age has fully arrived.
Any reluctance and feet dragging that prompted congregations to refrain from expanding its digital presence have been quickly dissolved.
Based on the number of views, it may appear that your church is shattering worship attendance records. That’s terrific, but numbers can be misleading. Another important number is the length of stay. How many people watched the entire message? What is the average length of time per person? These statistics can be a key component to determining how to reach your community.
Engage your unchurched audience who are watching your messages by allowing them an opportunity to click an online guest card. Ask how your congregation can serve them. Ask if your congregation can pray for them. Ask them to subscribe to a weekly on-line newsletter that could provide devotional thoughts, announcements, and a schedule.
Provide short videos online that matches the average length of viewing time. These videos can be a 5-10 minute synopsis of the sermon message or a series of encouraging words for unchurched people in your community during this pandemic crisis. Members can learn how to link these messages on their social media platforms.
Invest in your on-line presence. Now is not the time to be cheap. Hire professionals to help provide you with a powerful on-line presence and assist you in learning how to best communicate with your growing online presence with non-members. Members are excellent at learning how to operate a digital platform, but they are typically not very good at building a platform. That’s why churches ought to hire professionals with this important task.
The life of your congregation and future gospel activity is depending upon decisions being made today. Time can be invested to build a powerful identity for the unchurched families in your community who are observing, listening, and sometimes reaching out to hear some Good News.
Are you prepared
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