Is it possible to grow your church during reentry?
Yes it is possible and here are 10 proven ways to grow your church during reentry.
How are you going to restart with church services now that measures worldwide are easing?
Again, my friend Ian Borkent (Lead Pastor of C3 Rivers Church in The Netherlands) provides these valuable insights inot how to grow a healthy church.
1. Know Your Church
Step one is to know your church.
What are the demographics of your church?
Do people live far away or close by the church service location?
What is the average age of people?
Are there many people with health problems or just a few?
What is the level of eagerness for people in the congregation to get together again?
And of course, how many people are going to come to the meetings?
You can also gauge (for example by means of a church-wide survey) what the “mood” is like in the congregation. Try SurveyMonkey or Google Forms for instance.
Three questions to ask in a church wide survey
Ask about the needs and desires of your church members.
1. Do they like to meet in small groups, and why? Do they want to come to a big meeting and why (not)?
2. How much desire is there to sing together? How many people do / do not want to wear a mouth mask?
3. What do church members think is important when it comes to hygiene measures and health?
After gathering the results, compile percentages based on the survey results.
“For example, what percentage of people enjoy attending a Sunday service? What is the age of those people?”
Measuring these will help you prepare well and gain an understanding of what church may look like after the pandemic.
It’s also important during this time to keep
An eye on the health of your church. This isn’t just about the numbers. I think there’s room for both a quantitative and qualitative approach to measuring the health of your church.
How Do You Measure The Health Of A Church goes into this in more detail.
2. Know Your Church Building
Churches that are restarting again in this covid season do well to take a closer look at their building situation.
What is possible will depend on a number of factors:
Owner or tenant
Are you renting a place for church services? Then you are dependent on the rules and regulations of the landlord. Theaters, for example, can set strict rules when it comes to corona-proof meetings.
Are you allowed to sing?
Are the toilets available, and if so to what extent?
In what way is movement allowed in terms of flow of people before, during and after church services?
Is it possible to drink coffee after the service?
In addition, it is important to look at the availability of the room(s). Some landlords close their buildings or certain areas for a certain period of time, because it is not profitable to let them out.
Another question to check is whether things can be left setup between Sundays. And how much cleaning is required in-between services?
As a church, if you own a (church) building, there is much more freedom to decide for yourself how often you meet, and also how you meet.
Depending on your country, the constitution often allows for churches to set their own health measures, that may or may not follow the governments measures.
The size of the building and rooms
It is important to know how many people you can accommodate in the building.
Calculate how many people you can normally accommodate and how many people you can accommodate with (different amounts of) social distancing.
Do you have a children’s program? Then calculate how many children can come and how many (separate) rooms are needed for this.
In addition, how much space do you need for coffee before and/or after? And what are the options about meeting outdoors?
Toilets and hygiene
What is the quantity and quality of the toilet facilities?
What (additional) measures are necessary to guarantee hygiene and to manage the flow of people?
What about hygienic measures that need to take place elsewhere in the building?
How much focus do you want to give to hygiene? Excessive focus can come across as overbearing or restricting, too little focus can come across as uncaring and irresponsible.
Be smart about this.
Well-ventilated areas are indispensable for churches during the pandemic.
Are windows and doors able to open (against each other)?
Is air being recirculated or is new air being sucked in and old air being extracted?
Air currents sucking in new air from top to bottom dampen the negative effect of coughing.
Reversely, air conditioning in a place that is not well ventilated can actually amplify that negative effect.
3. Know The Laws and Regulations
One of the most heard statements when it comes to corona measures for churches is “The prime minister mentioned such and such during that press conference”.
More important than exactly what is said during which press conference is what the laws of the land and the constitution governing that land say, relating to churches.
Which exact laws and measures apply to which exact target groups?
Be specific about finding out the details.
“Churches have many freedoms and protections that are constitutionally established.”
It also helps to find out the “why” behind certain rules.
For example, the reason for registering people for church services is contact tracing. This registration in advance can also be done at the door (via member lists), which is still “in advance”.
This is a lower threshold for people than registering online in advance and can lead to a higher turnout.
The Church and the Law
How much does the government actually have to say about the church?
Do Caesar and Christ have an overlap in their jurisdiction?
Should the church really ask permission to the government about worship (singing), baptizing people or the laying on of hands?
Churches (with their own building) are allowed much more than they often think.
Churches have many freedoms protected by the constitution.
In The Netherlands, this constitutional protection certainly applies when you have your own church building with the zoning “church”.
In that church building, according to the constitution, you can set your own health measures that help you look after the flock under your care the best way you see fit.
When in doubt, seek legal advice or contact other churches to come to a common understanding of the interpretation of the law – and the best way to put health measures in place.
4. Know Wisdom And Love
Although the current corona measures are there to protect people’s health, they also have a downside.
The other side of the coin called “corona protection” is called “isolation” and that isolation has led to groups of people deteriorating in their emotional and mental health. This negative effect applies to all ages.
“Health” from a Biblical perspective takes into account not just the body, but the spirit and soul as well. We are not just a “body”. We are a triune being, just like God.
We are spirit-soul-body. Therefore, our spiritual and emotional health is as important as our physical health, and is also intertwined with it.
Long-term, generic isolation of people is detrimental to their overall health and this can lead to cases of burnout, depression or even suicide.
Biblical insight and scientific research shows that people have a physical and emotional need for touch, contact and closeness. When this is not done or is done less often, people not only deteriorate in their mental and emotional health, but even in their physical immunity.
“Health according to God’s Word is broader than just being a ‘body’ in need of protection”
How do we deal with this holistic concept of health in a church setting?
What is Biblical wisdom in this regard?
Love for people
What does God’s Word say about health and isolation?
When is it healthy or not healthy to isolate a human being?
What we see in the Bible is that sick people (those with leprosy for instance) were being isolated, but there was no wide-spread isolation happening of healthy people.
Which form of isolation is good and healthy for people’s development, and when does isolation go too far?
And more practically: how to deal with “social distancing” and the church gathering? How do we pray for people? How do we care? How do we baptize people?
“The most important Biblical standard for dealing with all these issues is love.“
It can be helpful to meditate on the following questions:
• What is love when it comes to how we come together as a church?
• What is love when it comes to which health measures we maintain and how?
It is also just as important to do a check to make sure you, as Pastor, are not isolated during this unique time. Build a community of pastors and leaders around you, people who you can reach out to when you find yourself needing help!
5. Know Your Conscience and Follow Your Faith
Many Christians and Church leaders struggle with the question of conscience when it comes to obeying the government.
When challenged to recognize Roman authority, Jesus asks for a coin. “Whose image is this?” He asks. Then He coins this famous phrase: “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21).
In other words, there is a domain of government, and there is a domain of God. There are two kingdoms, and sometimes they collide.
The question for many pastors is whether churches should seek permission from an earthly government when it comes to Kingdom principles.
For example, the baptism of people belongs to the domain of God.
Singing is not just singing, it is praise and adoration. “If we don’t sing it out, the rocks will praise God.”
In all these issues, not only is love the starting point, but we receive Biblical advice in a chapter devoted to the subject of “authority and dealing with government”.
That advice is to recognize the authority of government and to follow our God-given conscience (Rom. 13:5). After all, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).
“Are you a church leader? What does your conscience say when it comes to getting together?”
Keeping distance? Taking care of people? Singing together? Praying for people? Baptism?
A chapter later we learn, “Anything not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).
Follow your conscience and your faith. And don’t judge how someone else does that.
This article was written by Ian Borkent, Grow A Healthy Church consultant and C3 Rivers pastor.