In a post-Covid 19 world, we are seeing churches coming back at 50-60% of their pre-shutdown worship attendance. If you read Bishop Lowry’s blog last week you know that according to Ed Stetzer, editor-in-chief of Outreach magazine, and a professor and dean at Wheaton College, one of the transitions the church is going through is the “Great Sort.”  Read the full blog here
The pandemic accelerated the shift being caused by societal changes within local congregations, while at the same time people are engaging in communities of faith in different ways.  Many of the people, who have not returned, are not coming back.  That puts every church in our conference in a reboot, relaunch, restart place. To build back for the glory of God, we must actively reach new people, we have not reached before. We need to have effective witness in our everyday life.  We have to create cultures of invitation and environments where people are welcome and experience Christ.  As a leader of the church, I encourage you to read the book of Nehemiah, his leadership, his odds, his faithfulness, and even his disappointments.
Facts are our Friends - Entering Vital Signs 
I get how painful it is to enter vital sign numbers that are significantly lower than pre-Covid.  But as my predecessor, Rev. Mike Ramsdell always says, “Facts are our Friends.”  We cannot run from our reality, but like Nehemiah, we can assess where we are and with God’s help begin to build again.  Each week the Central Texas Conference ask churches to enter in their vital statistics. There are four major pieces of data that we need from you, so that we can adequately assess the health of the entire conference. 

This data includes:Telling Your Congregations Story

The Narrative:  This is the very most important piece of data we gather.  Stories of transformation under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  These can be entered into the narrative box at the bottom of the Vital Signs page.  Lives being transformed by a local church is the first and foremost piece of data that we seek. How are we making Disciples of Jesus Christ, our Wildly Important Goal?
The Metrics
Small groups for DEEP discipleship formation (Bible Study, Class Meetings, Band Groups, Sunday School, etc.)  Not the number of people in these groups, but rather the number of small groups being offered by your church.  Has Covid got your congregation in a Sunday only slump, or are people engaged in discipleship through small groups?
Professions of faith (including restoration of faith) How many people are experiencing life transforming faith through your congregation and are being led to profess their faith in Jesus Christ?  How many people are reaffirming their faith and seeking to grow closer to God because of the ministries of your local congregation?   
Worship Attendance:  How many people are worshiping  in person?  How many people are worshiping online every week?  To see how to count online attendance click this link: https://www.ctcumc.org/vitalsigns.  

No matter how broken the walls… with God we can faithfully rise up and build.

A local congregation in the South District, that is back worshipping at 50% of their pre-Covid attendance, struggling financially and facing the aging of their congregation is experiencing vitality from a ministry they have “always done,” by doing it differently.  For ten years this church has gathered on the 2nd Saturday of the month to make sandwiches, prepare hygiene kits, and go out to places where homeless gather to distribute.  Many of their church members have been doing this for all 10 years.  Post-shut down, the pastor led the congregation to go deeper with the men and women they met when they went out.  They had discussions with their homeless friends.  Learning their names and some of their backgrounds.  A builder in the church, met a man who was a displaced construction worker.  The builder was able to get the man some work, and then an apartment, then a small group at church.  This man is now an active member of the church. 
This past month, he took the folks who  make the sandwiches out to show them more places where they could find the homeless, than just the four spots that they had been going to.   This man who was once homeless has also helped homeless, out of work plumbers and electricians get connected to work and resources to get back on their feet.
In this you cannot help but see the faithfulness of a pastor/church leaders from 10 years ago who dared to start this type of ministry… seeds planted.  The pastors and laity who followed who kept the ministry going, meeting the physical needs of their homeless neighbors and a pastor today, who recognized the need to go deeper with their friends in relationship.  A Christian lay person who was a builder that said, “I can help this one.”  The one he helped, finding solid footing, recognizing his worth to God and sharing that Good News with his friends. 

Questions for Leadership:
  • Where are you experiencing vitality as a congregation?  What are the stories of transformation occurring in ministry?
  • How are you offering deep discipleship? Are you celebrating who is there or lamenting who is gone?
  • What ways are you helping people to profess their faith in Christ?
  • Living in a Both/And world where a hybrid of in person and online worship will be the norm. How is your in person and online worship attendance?  How are you building relationship in both contexts?  How could you include your online participants in discipleship, prayer ministries, and small groups?
Lead them with Love and Grace,

Dr. Leah S. Hidde-Gregory, Executive Director
Center for Evangelism, Mission and Church Growth
 
Storm the Gates!
Matthew 16:18 
https://outreachmagazine.com/features/leadership/68856-3-trends-shaping-the-post-pandemic-church.html

I also told them about the gracious hand of my God on me and what the king had said to me. They replied, “Let us start rebuilding.” So they began this good work. – Nehemiah 2:18