Imagine a ship sailing smoothly along and then suddenly running full speed into a treacherous storm. The captain and crew struggle to control the ship, maintain their own footing and then finally regain their balance. Just keeping the ship afloat is the primary purpose. Now, imagine that ship is your church. Pastors and church leaders have begun to regain their footing and are seeking to find a new balance since the overwhelming storm of the Corona Virus pandemic. For many churches staying afloat has been just about making worship happen.
But hang on, what about the other people on board that ship?
What about your people- God’s people? Who has done the check in on them? Who’s making sure no one has fallen overboard- perhaps forgetting about God in the storm? You delivered worship faithfully but did they attend it, view it or hear it? How do you know?
In our pre-Covid language we might be concerned about losing people out the back door. Those doors are now more like flood gates. And the waters of Covid are sweeping those souls out to sea. According to a 2009 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit. The study also concluded that, on average, it takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. Not going to physically attend a worship service has become a habit for many and a habit that will require assistance in breaking or may never change.
On July 8th Barna reported that one in three practicing Christians has stopped attending church physically or online and many are church hopping and shopping.
Now as we are late into July, some pastors and leaders are taking time off and just waiting the summer out… waiting Covid out. But should they be? Or do they need to be more vigilant than ever before?
A Check on the Stability of People Beginning with the Ship’s Crew
Now is a great time for leaders to check in on the health and well-being of one another and of their entire staff and leaders of all of their teams. How are they each doing spiritually, emotionally and physically? Are they personally connecting with God and others? How are they handling this life altering situation? Identify who needs support and connect them with that support.
A Check on the Passengers
Typically, churches tracked worship attendance as a means to track connection and engagement. That statistic is no longer viable. How will you take a head count now? Many compromised or cautious members are staying away from crowds. In many congregations giving has actually gone up… so those numbers give us a sense of comfort and security. But they shouldn’t. Online giving just indicates that a person chose to give regularly early on during this time. Yes, a short-term win for churches but not necessarily a long-term win.
The real question or metric to track is how are you or someone else from your church family personally engaging with those members? Engagement and connections are the new metrics to track. Did you have the resources to track who was engaged before Covid? Who has fallen overboard since Covid? Make contact with those individuals first as they are the ones most likely to reengage.
When a ship’s captain is faced with a crisis, he has to make decisions quickly. He redeploys his crew as needed. In the church that should include both staff and volunteers. Many of your volunteers may have been furloughed during this time. How can you reassign them to engage in areas of desperate need?
Redeploy Your Volunteers
How can you rethink how your current volunteers can be utilized? The world has changed and our approach to ministry must change as well. People are not behaving the same. This means our culture has changed. So how can you change your behavior to respond to their current behavior. God is forcing the church to move outside its walls. There’s a lot for us to learn here!
For many congregations this would be a great time to start Shepherding Groups. Your faithful members could be assigned up to 12 people to connect with every 4 to 12 weeks based on need. Notice I said 12 people and not 12 families. Every individual is unique. How they are doing in a crisis may be very different from spouse to spouse or child to child. Teenagers and twenty somethings all need to have someone checking in on them who is different from mom or dad. So who can you redeploy?
Online Bible Studies or Life Groups
Move your Bible studies or Life Groups online. Don’t take the summer off from Spiritual Growth and church connection. People need it this summer more than ever. Purchase business accounts from zoom so numerous people can have access to scheduling online time together. Train new facilitators online. Have a seasoned facilitator walk with a new facilitator. Be sure to have a list of material resources people can use. I am currently helping others learn to do this right now. Call or email me if you want some additional information.
Vacation Bible School and Children’s Ministry
Get your VBS and Sunday School leaders together and make contact with families with kids. Offer to drop off or mail packets of lessons and crafts to students at their home to help them learn more about and focus on Jesus. Kids and parents are stressed to by this new normal. Help them adjust. Be willing to pray with people on the spot and offer them the hope, encouragement and the support of Jesus and your church. Be sure to note any assistance that is needed, help if you can and be sure to get that information back to others who can help coordinate the effort.
A Course Adjustment: Time to Learn to Navigate New Waters
In Gallup’s recent article entitled: Disruptions Gives you Momentum to Change the authors Chris Musser and Sherzod Odilov share,
“People tend to cosider organizational change necessary and justified during crisis events. That is why leaders in the top echelon capitalize on crises to spark organizational change.”
What things need to change regarding your organizational or structural health?
I’ll offer a couple ideas. Perhaps your board of Elders or group responsible for the straying needs an overhaul. Perhaps you need to involve more women in the work of caring for people’s spiritual, emotional and physical needs right now.
Or perhaps you could deploy more people to make home visits to those more compromised and deliver “old fashioned” dvds of services, meditations or items that may meet the abilities of the older community. Maybe send along a few homemade cookies or something to cheer that person up and say, “I see you and I care about you. But even more so Jesus is with you all the time and He loves you!”
All Hands on Deck!
Look to those who are available and find ways to redeploy them to reach individuals for Jesus! ASK personally if someone could help. And this personal ask should be coming from all of your leaders in your church- not just the pastor! We all need to play our part in the body of Christ now more than ever before.