During the past few months, things have definitely changed in many aspects of life. It is no different for church plants of all ages, sizes, and locations. And even though many are geared to try to find the good in everything that happens, sometimes it is okay just to admit that things are … not good, and in fact, are very difficult.
Recently, when visiting with some church planters, I discovered that each one basically shared some form of the following paraphrases:
…we sure did lose some momentum and I am not sure we will get it back, or at least start getting it back, till the fall.
…if one more person tells me to look at this pandemic as an “opportunity” …!
…it’s a double “whammy” – COVID-19 and then summertime…
…every mission team has cancelled for the summer and we could not do much outreach even if they did come…
With the restrictions on gathering that started in March, many or most church plants utilized video venues to broadcast their worship services, video calls to meet in small groups, and every meeting that took place had to be made by conference call or video call. At first, many exclaimed that the number of “views” for their worship services far exceeded weekly worship attendance. But just a few weeks later, the views drastically dropped to very few, if any at all.
There are lots of explanations or reasonings or guesses as to why this took place. However, a more important question is “how do we get that momentum back?”
There are lots of articles, blogs, interviews, etc. that will give opinions on this very subject and this short article is no different. There is no “silver bullet,” but a few practical action steps may make a difference.
Summer – in Montana, that is basically June, July, and August – not by weather necessarily but this is typically when schools are out, people are taking vacations, it’s time to enjoy the outdoors, and the weather is usually pretty nice. During this time when many church plants would be doing community activities or outreaches, many have had to change plans. However, there are still opportunities to gather with the church family and promote fellowship – picnics, hikes, games, etc. These can also be outreach events as you encourage church attenders to invite friends to these times of fellowship. Just as people have got “out of the habit” of going to church, taking advantage of the desire for people to be around each other after not being able to do so for so long, can encourage that former routine to be reinstated.
Fall – a lot of church plants start up small groups, Bible studies, or just regular routines when school is back in session and people’s calendars are more routine again. Given the hope of more restrictions being lifted, this is once again a great time to invite people to church, send an email to remind them of upcoming events, encourage and train/retrain volunteers for their posts, etc.
With all this being said, reality is that some may not come back. Even though effort needs to be spent on encouraging them to reunite with their church family, don’t forget the church planting basics – continue to reach for new people. We live in a transient world and there are new people moving into most of our communities on a regular basis…which means some are also moving out. It’s not a matter of necessarily doing anything new as much as it is of doing what helped start the church in the first place.