After a season of staying-at-home most renewal leaders are asking, “How will we return to in-person worship?” Behind this question is a more important question, “How will we reengage our congregation in life together?” In other words, after weeks of disconnection, how will we reconnect?
Here are 7 thoughts about reengaging congregations in life-together:
Thought 1: Create fresh metrics of engagement
One large congregation recently returned to in-person worship with fewer than 100 showing up. Reasons for low attendance may include fear, inconvenience and new faith practices. Hopefully, this will improve over time. Still, leaders should consider additional ways to measure and monitor life-together.
Thought 2: Develop a “life in the family” communication piece
An important part of reengaging people in life-together is for congregants to know what’s happening in family life. A “Life in the Family” communication could include prayer concerns, graduations with “next steps”, birthdays, anniversaries and a featured family or two sharing stories of life during Covid-19.
Thought 3: Develop and communicate your in-person reengagement
Congregants need to know your church’s plan for in-person reengagement. Develop a clear plan that helps people navigate next steps towards reengagement including safe practices. This plan should be published broadly so everyone is in the know. Clarify that all plans are subject to changing circumstances.
Thought 4: Engage the congregation in a shared mission
People engage with each other when they are on a shared mission. A church could, for example, partner with a small core city congregation to help them prepare their facilities for the return of worshippers, assist with painting, landscaping and along with raising money to assist with charitable needs.
Thought 5: Engage the congregation in shared faith practices
This is a good time to develop a plan to engage the congregation in shared faith practices. This may include a study on overcoming anxiety, texting members a daily encouraging Bible verse, or reading through the Bible together in a year. A simple “Through the Bible” plan can be found here.
Thought 6: Engage people in smaller gatherings
The most important engagement today is through smaller gatherings. It may be some time before people feel comfortable shoulder to shoulder in large meeting spaces but getting together with a few people via zoom or for a picnic in the park is already desired. Help facilitate these smaller intentional connections.
Thought 7: Expect re-engagement to have a new normal
Everyone is talking about a “new normal.” What that new normal will look like is not yet known. Renewal leaders must expect, at least in the near term, that engagement may not look as it did in the past. We will have to creatively help each other develop best practices for this new way of doing life-together.
The Center for Church Renewal is committed to assisting church leaders as they help congregations navigate new ministry realities.