I am hearing from many churches that in-person attendance is at a level of 20%, 40%, and even 50% of what it was before COVID-19. Giving was doing pretty well the first few months of COVID-19 as people came together in a time of crisis, but this is not coming back to pre-covid numbers. Some researchers are also telling us that a significant percentage of people will not be coming back. Many people are also going to find when they return to the group they were in before COVID; choir, Sunday school class, mission group, etc., that there will be gaps in who was there before. This will be discouraging.
This means that as churches get back in gear they will have less people, less volunteers, less money, and less ability to do the programs and mission we were doing before. I am convinced that just hoping it will get better as hopefully things “get back to normal” for many churches, this is wishful thinking. (I know there are exceptions with some churches, especially in rural areas).
What do we do? In times of crisis and rapid change, this is where leadership must shine, especially from the senior leaders.
We have to discover who is still on the team. We will need to lead the rest of those still connected and the newly connected to become a part of the team. Our church community will all need to have an inspirational understanding that they are part of a connected people of God following Jesus Christ, getting ready to go somewhere together. It is a non-negotiable that this somewhere includes reaching people we are not already reaching. This surely could be the season we focus more clearly on the great commission of making disciples of all the world. This clear direction can’t wait too long or the church will stagnate, the present members will get frustrated, and the church might find itself in a marginal season long term. (If your church is ahead of the curve on this, Praise the Lord)!
- I would work on strengthening and building or rebuilding a spiritual core for the church.
- I would work on a clear focus and refocus on the great commission. Many of our churches are very good at mission and outreach, but not good at evangelism.
- I would work on connecting people to a team centered in Christ, united in reaching people we are not already reaching.
- New people in a church change everything. The book of Acts story is centered in new people entering the story of a growing church.
The church community needs to be aware, feel, and understand what it means to be on the team with their senior leaders, inspired, directed, and celebrating the Holy momentum the church is supposed to experience.
Hope must be restored.
(This is not an all-inclusive focus, many things are important in the life of the church; pastoral care, missions, social justice, recovery ministries, outreach, etc., but a church has to have a core everyone who is on the discipleship journey can connect to as they connect to each other, the senior leaders and God).
Rev. Mike Ramsdell, Executive Director
Center for Evangelism, Mission & Church Growth