Church pastors and leaders can make 3 assumptions regarding outreach and Coronavirus
Having the opportunity to talk to pastors regularly during the pandemic reveals some common themes and thoughts. The good news is that pastors are seeing their congregations respond positively during this time. Churches are learning more about the online space in general and the amount of personal evangelism taking place is encouraging.
BUT Coronavirus is not here to stay. The window of opportunity that the church has now will not remain.
What assumptions can leaders make right now regard outreach and Coronavirus (COVID-19) and how are they helpful for the future?
1. Assume More People ARE Checking Out Your Church Online BUT…
Recently I spoke with a woman who decided to check out a traditional church service during Easter online. She is not an active Christian but was raised in a family who went to church occasionally. Because she was fearful and anxious about Coronavirus, she decided to check out her childhood faith.
She was very disappointed.
She told me that the service she watched was completely boring, the language used meant nothing to her. It reinforced for her why she does not go to church as an adult. There were no helpful hints on how to live life through challenging times and her experience was that God was again irrelevant.
I’ve heard this story a few times, it’s very disappointing.
Pastors and church leaders of all denominations should assume that more people are checking out their churches online BUT should ensure that the content is accessible to newcomers. Make it comprehensible for those that are looking for comfort and answers during this time.
Of course, this raises another issue of topics and subject matter. What to speak on so that the new audience and the existing audience in your church can benefit is challenging. There is no easy answer BUT what can be done immediately is to ‘tweak’, to be more mindful of what is said online each week. It is always helpful to ask the question, ‘If my neighbour or local business owner were here, would it be helpful, would it make sense, would it point them toward Christ?”
These questions need to be considered for the present situation and the future.
2. Assume Congregation Members are Reaching Out More in their Neighbourhood BUT…
The common story that pastors are reporting now is that church members are more active in communicating with their neighbours. Leaders say that because people are spending more time at home, they are more likely to bump into their neighbours. People are seeing each other from their driveways and calling out over their fences. Many are bumping into neighbours on a walk. With fitness clubs closed, hundreds are walking around for exercise.
Pastors and church leaders should assume that congregation members are reaching out more often in their neighbourhood BUT they should also consider the future. What happens after the pandemic?
What are the active steps that leaders can be speaking about NOW? What will help people stay connected to their neighbourhood beyond COVID-19?
Plan to encourage people to stay connected.
Train for people to stay connected.
Leaders could start asking their teams and church members for ideas. How could people stay connected post COVID-19? Small groups could share and discuss these thoughts.
Pastors could consider making more space in the church calendar for people to stay connected to neighbours. At times church life, meetings and services can take up valuable time that people have to connect with the world around them. It’s worth considering some of these thoughts now, before the restrictions are lifted.
3. Assume Many in Society are Feeling Anxious BUT…
Thousands of people have lost jobs, parents are having to take on the extra responsibility of schooling, businesses are suffering, and the elderly are feeling more isolated. In the case of solo parents, their life has become more complicated as they also add home-schooling to their agenda.
The Australian Phsycological Society has indicated that the level of anxiety in the community is rising during this pandemic. People are deeply concerned and this unprecedented time of stress can quickly turn to severe anxiety and panic.
How could the church respond?
Please do make the assumption that society is feeling more anxious BUT please don’t leave the answers solely with the professionals.
As church members spend more time in their neighbourhoods, the chances of conversations with people experiencing anxiety is high.
How could leaders up skill church members to help those experiencing anxiety?
What else could you do?
Are there podcasts, websites or articles that would be useful to share with your people?
Could you run some online training via zoom or some other platform to give some basic education regarding anxiety so that people are more able to help those in their neighbourhood?
This unprecedented season in Australia has afforded the church many wonderful opportunities to share the gospel.
Outreach has increased during Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Nicky Gumble from Alpha International recently commented that he had never seen such an opportune time for the gospel.
These sentiments are echoed hundreds of times over by church leaders around the world.
The challenge now, beyond the assumptions that can be made, is to consider what’s next………….