During the pandemic of 2020-2021, the church where I was a transitional pastor had, probably like your church, a struggle knowing which programing to do or not to do. From November of 2020 to February of 2021 almost daily we discussed whether we were going to meet in person and online or just online. Fortunately for me, the church was built for broadcasting and had all the bells and whistles for a great video production. We could even record my message and the worship set ahead of time and have just a few of us live to do announcement before the broadcast.
This was a period of time in the church’s life where we had to stop doing some things that had been a staple for the church. In-person worship and in-person small groups hit the top of the list. Other things that were put on pause were children’s church, outreach, Wednesday activities to name a few. We didn’t shake hands or hug necks.
We are now “officially” outside of the pandemic. Yes, we still live with the effects of the pandemic, but life has taken on a normality, even a new normal.
This new normal includes changes in what and how we do things in our churches. But there is also another side to this. There are things that were stopped during the pandemic that now need to be started again. Here’s a list of just a few of these things.
1. Print a complete bulletin or worship guide
Maybe your church never stopped this. Good for you! Many did and many still don’t. It was stopped because we were concerned about the spread of Covid-19. That’s not a reason anymore.
You may or may not know this, but my wife and I attend a lot of different churches. We are becoming “experts” on church services and church practices in our little Baptist world. Having a worship guide is a bigger deal than you might think. We frequently attend churches that have no worship guide. If they do have one, often it’s simply an order of service with nothing more. No website. No phone number. No names of the ministers with contact information. No calendar of events. Do yourself a favor, print a real and complete worship guide that looks good. Put some color in it. At this point, if you don’t, it just looks lazy.
2. Start Back Wednesday Evening Programing
Yes, our life patterns have changed. Our members and even pastors have gotten used to little or no programming on Wednesday evenings. But important things took place on this night and are not taking place anywhere else. Even if it is a small prayer service, it is a prayer service. God still hears the prayers of his gathered people. Jesus said he’d be in their midst even if it is only two or three. That alone is worth it. But there is more: Youth would meet for worship and inspiration. Children would meet and learn missions and Scripture in a way that Sunday morning could not accomplish. In some churches, families would gather for a meal at church, then go to their areas. Wednesdays were opportunities for men to group with other men and women to group with other women for discipleship.
3. Conduct Personal Outreach
Over the years outreach has changed. When I began as a new believer in the dark ages of the 1980s, we would “cold call” on outreach night. That’s right. I and a couple of others, usually another guy and a girl would have the contact information of a person who visited our church. We would head out on a Monday or Tuesday night to visit them. Can you believe the nerve! We’d show up at someone’s house unannounced, then ask if we could come in and talk to them about their soul and their spiritual lives. I did this kind of thing every week for about 30 years. This is not what I’m talking about.
What I am talking about is following up on guests but doing it appropriately and personally. Maybe we don’t show up at their home unannounced, but you could make an appointment. It doesn’t have to be at their home. It could be at a coffee shop or some other place. It could be a phone call, that progresses into a meeting in person. I often have my first meeting with new people on Zoom. Other ideas could include a handwritten note or text them as a way of introduction.
You can still have outreach groups meet together to do all of these things. If they can’t meet together physically, they could select a night where each one does their outreach assignments, then they all get on Zoom at a predetermined time to report to one another. It motivates and validates their work. It also increased community and fellowship. These are just ideas.
The point I’m making is that people are more open to other ways of communicating now than ever before. Social media being a big one. So, leverage all the communication streams that you are able, remembering to make it a personal outreach as well.
4. Offer Evangelism Training
Research has concluded that personal evangelism training increases the participants positive outlook on evangelism and confidence in them personally sharing their faith.[i] From my work in training church members in personal evangelism as well as promoting, and producing personal evangelism resources, I’ve seen the following changes in people and churches from a consistent and quality evangelism equipping strategy:
An increased understanding of the gospel
An appreciation of the importance of the gospel
A greater ability to speak on spiritual things
A dynamic devotional life
Greater involvement in outreach ministries of the church.
A growing participation in the stewardship of their time, talents, and treasure
Honestly, there is no downside of offering personal evangelism training on a regular basis. There are many ways to do this and many different models to choose from. However, the choices can be overwhelming. I have a couple of ways that do not interfere with your current church schedule or require a long-term commitment.
But personal evangelism training has hit on hard times. Some of the trainings assume more knowledge of the Gospel of Christ than others. Some are more programmatic and others more relational. The bottom line is, offer something. I’ve suggested options in other blogs. You can find them here.
5. Take Up Offering During Services
Pass the plate, bucket, sack or whatever you used before. Go back to doing that. Sure, leave the offering boxes up and also promote giving online, by text or app. It’s all good and you should use them all.
By taking up an offering during the services, you allow people to actually make giving financially to God part of their service of worship. Family members need to see their parents or significant others giving a tithe and offering to God. It is a good thing.
I don’t remember a lot of my dad’s participation in church, but one thing I remember is that he was adamant about us giving financially to God’s work. When he didn’t attend church, he made sure I did, and he would send me with a check to put in the offering plate. That’s a hard discipline to model with an automatic draft or giving over a text. So, give your membership the option of giving in the offering plate by passing the plate at your services.
6. Have a Greeting Time in the Services
A lot of ink has been spilled debating on whether churches should have a time to recognize guests and greet one another. I believe there are good ways to do this and less good ways. I’ve been exposed to both, and I’ve participated in both. Guests generally don’t like to be singled out. I’d say about 99% of them don’t like that. However, all guests want to feel that they are welcome. Having a general and short time where people recognize one another, saying, “good morning” or “I’m glad to see you, my name is _______, what’s yours?” is not out of order.
Before the greeting, your church could ask for everyone to scan the QR code on the back of the seat in front of them or to fill out a physical connection card, to drop in the offering plate when it passes. By the way, that’s another good reason for taking up an offering.
7. Leader Training
Having regular training for deacons, department directors, teachers and other leaders has always been a challenge. The pandemic shut a lot of that down and we’ve suffered from it.
You and I both know how important it is to have ongoing training. We can all use some equipping, especially when you have new leaders moving up. Technology has made training more versatile and convenient through video platforms, most can be recorded and made available later “on demand.” I urge you to poll your leaders and discuss how best your church can provide ongoing equipping for the different needs that are in the ministries of your church.
A great first step would be to take all your small group and department leaders to this year’s Associational Sunday School/Small Group Leader training. Hurry up, it’s happening on January 27, 2023. The theme is “Teaching for Life Transformation.” You can find out more about it here:
The next blog will be on the subject of things that we did during the pandemic in church that we need to keep doing.
[i] Kwan, Albert Tak Yin. How Do Participants in an Evangelism Training Program Assess its Impact on Their Ability and Confidence in Sharing Their Personal Faith? D.Min. Project. 2016. https://bit.ly/3st83th