A few weeks ago, I wrote, “I estimate that when churches can have in-person worship again without any hindrances many will have lost a third of their existing people".  I am not the only person saying that. There are many reasons this is being forecasted; changed habits, disconnecting, connecting somewhere else, etc.  Research is already telling us that many who started worshiping online in the beginning have dropped out.
 
Is it possible to have more people connect to in-person worship and other activities quickly when COVID-19 is past?  I believe so.
 
It will be the addition of new people connecting to the church in-person (and online) that will tell that tale. I am convinced it will not be just the return of the existing members and attenders.
  • Are you responding to, connecting to, and staying connected with new people who visit online in whatever way is possible?  Is there a system that gives them and the church an opportunity to build a vital relationship in this season rather than watching them peruse online?
  • Are you keeping a running list of new people and new candidates for discipleship?
  • Are you providing online opportunities aimed at new people using systems that allow your members, you, and the church to participate in online and in-person activities when they are activated?
  • Do you have staff and or volunteers whose job it is to target new people and help them navigate entry into discipleship and one day into church?
  • Create a specific, special, invitational, and welcoming point for those that have only been a digital guest and are looking for a deeper in person connection with the pastor, congregation, staff, volunteers, and Jesus. 
  • As of now every church is really a new church start.  Are there systems that are being developed and that recreate a church around reaching new people, making new disciples, and growing a church, and not just restoring the previous comfortable experience to the  long term member?
  • Are we using this season to begin focusing people on an undercurrent of evangelism and not just hand holding?  I know hand holding Is an important part of pastoral care, but so is reaching new people for Jesus Christ. 
  • Are you prepared without hindrance when in-person worship begins to have an all hands-on deck system to invite the new people to activities or groups? Will the worship experience have a guest invitational element?
I believe the churches, church leaders, and pastors who enter the next season -  the best will already have a comprehensive accounting of the digital and online guests that have visited groups, connected with children’s groups, engaged worship, given prayer requests, had prayer needs, etc., and have created a clear way to help bring them to in-person gatherings and into the discipleship journey.  And Yes, this is similar to why new churches that succeed do succeed because they center in reaching new people they have not already been reaching (a lot like the Book of Acts).

Rev. Mike Ramsdell, Executive Director
Center for Evangelism, Mission & Church Growth