“The future of the post-COVID-19 church will not be getting dropouts to return - it will be reaching new people!”
Since last March, every church has had dropouts because of this pandemic, some more than others. They have dropped out for all kinds of reasons; you know those reasons as well as I do. In any case, I am sure we hope that most of them will return when things get back to “normal.” A normal that was on life support in the spring and died somewhere after September.
We certainly hope that our dropouts will return someday (at least most of them, there are always a few….) We miss them, they had roles in our church, maybe they gave, some might even be personal friends, (though pretty much everything for a pastor is personal). They have value to the church and to us.
But they are not the future. They do not bring new life into churches that have been dealing with grief and the old that is deteriorating. They also will not bring the numbers, the change, the growth both spiritually and numerically that is part of the defining understanding of the Book of Acts Church.
It has always been true that new people are the change, the future for a church that will be effective in making disciples, in evangelizing the lost, hurting, broken world, but today it’s truer than maybe it has ever been. Many times, when I have been asked to work with a church that has been in decline my answer for the culture change the church needs is new people, often many new people. Most churches will not have significant change till that happens.
In our vision process for the New Church, if we do not make central reaching new people, I believe we will stagnate very quickly, and it will not be at the strength of the Pre COVID-19 Church (one church began the year with a series titled, “New Year, New World, New Church”). We must make the center of the new church reaching new people, making disciples, developing evangelism tools, refocusing our church on those in our community that God has specifically called our church, our unique Methodist church to reach.
If we are pinning our hopes for a bright future on those that dropped out, for whatever reason, I am convinced we will be sorely disappointed.
Whatever our plans are, what the vision is, the mission will be, and what goals are set, I believe naming how we will refocus and mobilize to reach new people in our community may be the most critical decision we have ever made as senior leaders in our churches. This decision is not about playing catch up, it is about moving forward. It's about the core mission the church has always had, making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Rev. Mike Ramsdell, Executive Director
Center for Evangelism, Mission & Church Growth