A leading casualty of the pandemic has been the weakening of communal glue. An important priority for renewal leaders is reinvesting in life-together. In early pandemic research, Barna has noted that 1 in 3 practicing Christians have dropped out of church since COVID-19 began (more so for millennials). This same report noted that the disconnected are showing increased challenges related to emotional health (read article here). Clearly, the loss of community has consequences for individuals and churches. If renewal leaders hope to have partners who will join them on mission tomorrow, they must reestablish community today.
Here are 7 practices that can help reestablish life-together:
Practice 1: Make the Case for the Importance of Life-together
Rick Warren once said that pastors should teach themselves out of every challenge. That’s good advice. The first thing renewal leaders can do to strengthen the glue of community is teach about the biblical value of life-together. This teaching should come from pulpits and via multiple communication platforms.
Practice 2: Set G0als Related to Life-together
What you measure is what you get. Leadership teams should establish goals for life-together. Those goals include the percentage of the congregation returning to in-person or on-line worship, the number of persons in an intentional discipling relationship, the number of persons engaging with e-mails, etc.
Practice 3: Reconnect Individually to Launch Life-together
It’s likely that many of those who have dropped out of church life have received little or no personal contact from their church. This is the time to reinvest in making personal connections with congregants and guests to see how they are doing and extend an invitation to return to the life of the church.
Practice 4: Provide Fresh Opportunities to Experience Life-together
One church set up a large open-air tent and offered multiple opportunities for people to participate in a safe praise and prayer gathering. This is one example of multiple ways churches can encourage reconnection with those distanced by COVID-19. Fresh opportunities will lead to fresh engagement.
Practice 5: Name Values Connected to Life-together
A huge challenge in reconnecting is the wide range of opinions about safe-practices. Some are ready to meet face-to-face while others see in-person gatherings as unwise. These opinions are often politically charged. Congregations must provide multiple opportunities that respect various comfort levels and they must teach Christian charity in the way we view, speak to and speak about brothers and sisters in Christ.
Practice 6: Connect Life-together With Mission
Life-together is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The more life-together can be connected to mission the greater will be the strength of the communal glue. Create ways for small pods of church members to invest in serving their community and loving their neighbor.
Practice 7: Consider a Life-together Campaign
Campaigns are a good way to emphasize important discipleship themes. Campaigns focus the entire life of the congregation on a single conversation and then provide practical ways to put teachings into practice.