Is it possible to grow your church during reentry?
This is the question on pastors’ lips all over the globe.
As we move into the reentry phase of the COVID season we face the challenge of getting our people back to on-site Sunday services while continuing to minister online.
Many things can stop a church from growing however there are steps we can take to position our church for growth.
1. Make Gatherings Refreshing
How long have you and your church missed meeting with people this past season?
Have you missed church gatherings? Volunteer nights out? Or simply being close together in a small group, worshipping Jesus and sharing life. How long? Probably a few months.
Gathering with God’s people is refreshing. Or so it should be.
Now imagine not gathering with those you love, for years. Paul wrote in Romans chapter 15 that he had been longing to visit the people of Rome for years (verse 23). And then he writes why:
so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed.Romans 15.32
How to reopen church after covid 19?
Many people have had a tough first half of 2020. There is dryness of spirit, people are tired or worn out. We need refreshing. There is no better place to be refreshed than in the company of God’s people.
But who knows that “church” can be busy? The “event” of church can cause some people, especially the volunteer team, to pull back at the idea.
So when you meet again as a church, make it refreshing. Literally.
Hand out ice cream.
Have a lot of space in the program.
Leave room for connecting.
Set low expectations for the volunteer team, in terms of frequency of serving and in terms of what we need to do.
Gathering together is more important than “going back to how it was”. Relax and be refreshed.
2. Phone Or Visit People On The Fringe
Not everyone of your church members will be ready yet to come to a rebooted church service.
Some elderly or at-risk people may want to stay at home, others prefer to see how things play out first. And some are afraid of larger group settings.
These members of church will naturally have less contact with people in this season.
Make sure they get regular phone calls by one of the pastors or pastoral team to help them reengage and to see how they are doing. This will help them feel included.
“Make sure they get regular phone calls by one of the pastors or pastoral team.”
Some might also really appreciate a personal visit.
3. Keep Live-streaming Going
There are more things to consider before reopening your church.
Many churches have started or increased live-streaming their services during the lockdown season.
One of the mistakes you can make after the lockdown is to abruptly stop live-streaming. Live-streaming can be frustrating however it can deliver results.
Neighbours, colleagues, friends and strangers have possibly started to watch your live-streaming service in the past months. Not everyone will turn up to a real church service as soon as they can.
However, many will keep watching, and, when the time is there, show up to experience this “for real” one day.
Another location of church
A live-streaming service is another location of your church, with a specific audience and specific needs.
Think about this.
If you have started live-streaming in the last few months, you have started another location of your church.
Your live-streaming will help you grow your church during reentry.
You can assign a “live-streaming pastor”, “live-streaming followup”, “live-streaming kids director” and more positions that you already have in your regular location. In this way, you will be able to reach hundreds of people that you were not reaching pre-COVID.
The new Sunday morning now looks different.
4. Distribute Invite Hand-outs
Churches opening back up can consider distributing brand new invite cards during the first physical meetings. Give these to those present, to hand-out to their friends.
Evangelism through relationships is still one of the most effective ways of reaching and discipling the lost for Christ. Now that you have the extra live-streaming location, put this on the invite card.
Train your church members how to hand these cards out and what words they can use.
Evangelism through relationships is still one of the most effective ways of reaching the lost for Christ
Those who will be present at the first post-covid gatherings, will be the early adopters of meeting again.
These members will likely possess a high degree of boldness and adoption of church culture.
They will be enthusiastic members who would love to tell others about church. They will help you grow your church during reentry.
Giving them invite cards, and training them how to hand these out, will increase the exposure of your church in your community. It will increase the live-streaming engagement and subsequent visits to your physical gatherings too.
The early adopters will be enthusiastic members who would love to tell others about church (online).
5. Add Trainee Positions
Having read up to this point, you might be wondering how to keep a refreshing atmosphere, when at the same time staying on top of live-streaming, or even having a “live-streaming location” with subsequent positions? Does that not make things less refreshing, you might be wondering.
And what about the teams who get back to work, after months of no church services? Teams consisting of volunteers who might be tired from the COVID season?
This is the moment to add trainee positions.
Your church needs a leadership pipeline which includes a volunteer onboarding process if it wants to stay healthy.
Also this is an excellent time to launch a development group for emerging leaders.
While this important in the pre-COVID season, now it is imperative.
Without a leadership pipeline and the development of new volunteers, your current leaders and volunteers could experience burn-out quicker.
Let’s say you have recently started a live-streaming team. In order for this team to continue to operate in a healthy manner, they need a break once in a while.
Adding trainee positions will help the current crew relax.
Recruit new volunteers and take a few weeks to train new ‘tech-heads’ on the job. Give them increasing responsibilities. Then let them have a go. Discover more on recruiting and training volunteers in John Finkelde’s book How to Recruit, Retain and Motivate Volunteers.
Download Volunteer Opportunity Template
Get more people serving, quicker
Your church needs a leadership pipeline if it wants to stay healthy.
Advantages of adding trainee positions
Consider these advantages of adding trainee positions:
- Your current team will stay fresh.
- Your volunteer base will expand.
- People will be released into their God-given calling.
Do not underestimate the importance of the last point.
While some volunteers might be tired right now, other people are waiting to get their teeth into something.
Many young adults without a demanding job have had too much time on their hands in the COVID season. Or they have been feeling lonely and lacking a sense of purpose and community.
They are keen to be doing something of Kingdom value. All they need is for someone to ask them. This could lead them into a lifetime of ministry, into their destiny. These young adults will help you grow your church during reentry.
“Some people are waiting to be asked. A trainee position could release them into a lifetime of ministry.”
6. Increase Followup Impact
Many churches have been struggling with follow up of people during the live-streaming season.
How to followup people you do not know are watching?
How to get details from first time visitors to your live-stream?
How to get details for someone responding to the salvation altar call?
Solutions have been ranging from post stream zoom meetings, texting “first time to 555333”, sending an email to the church office or calling a phone number.
Results vary, but text and email have shown to be more effective than people joining a zoom meeting.
Does online follow up work?
Without follow up and getting people involved in the life of the church, your church will not grow and people will not grow.
In fact, research in one Australian megachurch shows that 93% of new people leave within one year if they do not start serving or join a small group.
Follow up easier than ever
What churches should consider before reopening is how to address follow up.
Now that churches are rebooting their services, followup is easier than ever.
First of all, if you have nailed online followup, you can continue utilizing this for your “live-stream location”. Emails and texts will continue to come in, and you can follow these up in several ways.
Ways to follow up people
- Ask people for their physical address and send them a gift on behalf of the church.
- Ask for their phone number, call them. Ask if they have a prayer request and pray shortly on the phone.
- Invite people to a midweek small group.
- Invite people to the physical church service.
Secondly gathering of details is now law.
There are many downsides to the way we can or cannot gather again.
But every pastor who believes in follow up is shouting “Hallelujah” when it comes to contact tracing for church services.
Contact tracing takes visitor cards to a whole new level and will help you grow your church during reentry.
In many countries, gathering details for contact tracing is now enforced for large meetings.
This means that people need to either register in advance or give their details upon entry of the meeting.
They need to leave at least their name, and email address or phone number. Sometimes, also their physical address.
Just add a box to the form, saying “I do not object to the church using these details to contact me with more information about the church”, in keeping with privacy regulations. However, please check with your local government authorities to ensure this is an acceptable practice.
7. Pray Together
Recently we met in person with all our pastors together, 12 people in one place, under the same roof. We had been missing each other’s company as a group.
We spent a great evening together in each other’s presence. The best part of that evening? Praying together. By far.
We prophesied over one another. We worshiped God. We declared his promises over our church. No zoom meeting could have replaced the power and presence we felt during that time.
The roof of the early church shifted, literally, when the people came together in prayer.
“They raised their voices together in prayer to God” and then “the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke boldly.” (Acts 4)
Pray in the same place
Physically praying together in the same place shifts the atmosphere
Physically praying together in the same place is the best conversation starter and atmosphere shifter that can take place – after you meet back up, and one the first steps for reopening churches.
The people will experience unity. The presence of God will be felt. The church will grow in health and impact.
Have you heard it being said this season, “Where two or three are together in His name, there Jesus is”? The inference being that even in a season of (partial) lockdown, churches during covid can meet up with two people and pray – and Jesus will be there.
This so true.
Now imagine coming together again with 30 people in person, and praying together. Or coming together with 100 people and praying together!
8. Find Your Voice
You might have heard this phrase before, “find your voice.”
This means that as a pastor, called by God within a unique set of circumstances and for a unique set of reasons, you have been given a voice for your people.
Your church needs your voice.
It’s great that we have doctors, psychologists, virologists and governors. But they do not have to give an account before God as to how they led your church through these times.
“You will find your voice in keeping with God’s word, your conscience and the direction of the Holy Spirit.”
You will find your voice in keeping with God’s word, your conscience and the direction of the Holy Spirit.
Your voice needs to represent the Kingdom of God, which is counter-culture to the kingdoms of this world.
Do not hold back on your values and what you believe. Keep pursuing the Holy Spirit as the senior pastor of your church.
Then share what you want to share, full of grace and full of truth, walking the line between faith and wisdom.
9. Connect With Other Pastors
Current measures differ from country to country. Even within countries, churches respond differently.
Those renting a venue have other concerns than those with their own building.
Connecting with other pastors in a similar situation can help. Share ideas, see if you missed anything, get encouraged or challenge one another.
They will help you grow your church during reentry.
No one has to reinvent the wheel by themselves.
You might have thought of something that no one else is considering. And vice versa. Blind spots remain blind spots if you stay in isolation and disconnection.
10. Build Your Team
“How much time are you spending on your core team?”
To carry the church through this season, in fact through any season, you need to have a healthy (core) team. If the core is healthy, the rest of the body will benefit and flourish too.
How much time are you spending on your core team? Are you in touch with them regularly? Do you spend enough quality time together?
Ensure they are growing in health. Physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. When they need a break, give them a break. When they want to hang out with you, hang out. Have fun together and lower “work” expectations.
Teams that play together, will stay together.
This is not the season to increase demands or to add difficult tasks.
This is the season to let people serve in their sweet spot, and bring to the table what they are good at.
Consider appointing a Volunteer Director who will help coordinate the building of your teams.
They will ensure that people discover their gifting and serve in a place that fits.
This will lead to greater health in the whole church and could be a great inclusion in church reopening guidelines.
I believe these steps will help you grow your church during reentry.
Download Volunteer Opportunity Template
Get more people serving, quicker