Jim's Journal September 2020
Hopefully every church, pastor and leader are thinking about the future! As each of you has been in the process of reopening there have been many questions and continual struggles. The same questions are asked over and over: “Will people come back? When will they come back? Will our church ever look the same? When will things go back to normal? (Feel free to add to this list)
Truth be told, nobody but Jesus can answer these questions. I know that probably doesn’t sound all that reassuring, but you just need to know YOU ARE NOT ALONE! EVERYONE IS IN A CONSTANT STATE OF ADJUSTING AND ADAPTING.
Recently I did a survey where 48 of our churches/pastors responded and I have noticed a few trends that seem to be true across our association and it aligns with what I am reading in following national trends and surveys (Barna, Gloo, LifeWay). There are some key elements that are separating churches that are poised to move ahead and those who are stuck. Some who have a plan and others who have NO PLAN.
As you consider the coming months...be mindful of these potential mistakes as you move forward:
1. Thinking everyone is going to come back. To this point in NKBA churches 27% of churches have attendance that is about the same or greater than before COVID-19. 31% are 20-40% less, and nearly 42% are 50-60% less. There are some people who won’t be comfortable returning to an in-person experience, no matter what measures you put in place.
2. Not listening to your people. The best way to understand the needs of the church is to ASK THEM! The opinions of one LOUD person are not always reflective of the congregation or community. Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, don’t expect unanimous answers, but hear and understand your majority. Use online surveys, do phone surveys...but LISTEN!
3. Not recruiting volunteers. Despite numbers 1-2, you need to reassign and recruit volunteers from your “ACTIVE” pool and recruit new volunteers to fill the gap on the ministries that ARE and MUST run at full capacity.
4. Failing to develop a plan. While over 50% of our churches are helping distribute food supplies to those in need (which is AWESOME), nearly 30% indicated that they have NO ORGANIZED RESPONSE TO HELP...NO PLAN. Only 6% indicated they are reaching out to the elderly and isolated in our communities...that is disturbing! As your Lead Follower, I have been working with many of our churches in developing plans from securing funds through the CARES ACT, putting together reopening plans and procedures, getting services streaming online and setting up online giving, and working with some toward developing specific revitalization and engagement strategies. I was always taught, “when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
5. Leaving behind your online audience. One thing I am VERY encouraged about is the number of you who have adjusted and began engaging people online (through Facebook LIVE, YouTube, or other streaming platforms)! Many joined in the 40 days of prayer and provided daily devotionals...some of which are continuing today and are still engaging people with the Gospel! BUT, as we regather in-person, we must make plans to keep engaging people online and enabling them toward NEXT STEPS in following and growing in their relationship with Jesus (Small Group online and other possibilities). We have to keep reaching people no matter where they live!
6. Not having a contingency plan. We are literally day to day in every way. This season has been totally unpredictable and its difficult to know WHAT to count on. We have to be prepared for all scenarios and adjust our expectations to adapt to each one. BEING FLEXIBLE IS KEY! Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Consider what your plan is when a member(s) test positive? Only 37% of churches reported any cases thus far, but that is changing day by day. 43% indicated they were somewhat concerned about a resurgence of the virus, 23% are very concerned, and 8% extremely concerned, while 26% were not too concerned or not concerned at all.
7. Being defensive or judgmental. Every church and every member will have their own choices and reasons. You must allow for that and LEAD YOUR CHURCH FORWARD IN YOUR COMMUNITY. Nobody knows your people, and your community (YOUR JERUSALEM) the way you do! But whatever you do, DO NOT LET THIS OPPORTUNITY PASS! JESUS IS INVITING US TO JOIN HIM IN HIS MISSION. OUR ANSWER WILL DETERMINE THE IMPACT ON OUR COMMUNITIES (or lack thereof)!
I am inviting churches and pastors to commit this fall to PRAYER WALKING/DRIVING your community. We have numerous resources for your church to help you step by step do this and BEGIN IN PRAYER for your community, street by street, home by home. If you are willing...you can be the catalyst for CHANGING CULTURE (not canceling culture) in your church/community. Contact the NKBA and we will share the resources with you and help our churches to GATHER again, but even more importantly SCATTER as we seek to PROCLAIM THE NAME OF JESUS IN WORD AND DEED!
I stand ready to serve you...as do many other leaders in the NKBA. It is a great joy to partner with you!
Your Lead Follower,