If the pandemic taught us one thing, it taught us that we are created for community. When God created His perfect creation there was just one hiccup, no community. God said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” With that He created community to complete His perfect work. As society emerges from the pandemic, the first notable sign of a new day is the robust gathering together that was denied us for the long winter of COVID-19. Interestingly, this robust gathering together is slightly less robust in the average North American church where, as a rule of thumb, 2/3’s of pre-COVID worship attendance is being experienced in a post-COVID world. Renewal demands a return to a robust passion to be together. Jesus told his disciples that his presence is actually connected to community (Matthew 18:20) and Peter said that a spiritual house is formed from the living stones of Christian community (I Peter 2:5). In other words, robust Christian community is essential for the mission of God on earth.
Here are some suggestions to invigorate a return to life together:
Suggestion 1: Provide Safe Places To Return To Community
A second season of outdoor summer worship is one way to connect with neighbors and assuage concerns about meeting in enclosed public spaces. Whenever possible have weekly gatherings either outdoors venues or in larger spaces with social distancing. Consider building a gazebo on church property for protected space now and a wedding venue later.
Suggestion 2: Create Celebrations of Community
Churches will do well to create events highlighting the joy of community. For example, this would be a good summer for a church picnic filled with food, games and laughter. One church is hosting a weekly “Walk It Out” for young moms to walk area nature trails together. Canoe/kayak trips, church campouts, backyard BBQ’s all celebrate community.
Suggestion 3: Teach the Importance of Christian Community
A summer teaching/preaching series on the images of the N.T. church or the “one-another” N.T. passages on Christian community through the lens of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians would all be great places to begin. Use social media to send out daily messages and quotes about Christian community that will whet the appetite for life together.
Suggestion 4: Engage In Mission As Community
Doing mission together is one of the best ways to experience the joy of true Christian community. Put together community service projects to which everyone can contribute. Some examples: find a dilapidated home and remodel it for an impoverished neighbor, serve supper at a local mission or engage the community in random acts of kindness.
Suggestion 5: Reconnect Personally With Everyone Who Is Part of the Community
Everyone who is or has been affiliated with your congregation should receive a call from the pastor, an elder or a key ministry leader for the simple purpose of checking in with them, offering to pray for them, discovering how they are doing in this time of transition and reinviting them to full life in the faith community.
Suggestion 6: Continue Providing a Quality Digital Bridge to Community
Those who have joined your community digitally must not be abandoned by the community as we emerge from COVID-19 restrictions. It is important to remember that ministering to the on-line community demands more than simply turning on a live-stream of a worship service. True digital ministry demands personalized conversation and connection.
Suggestion 7: Joyfully Embrace What You Have and Begin Living In to Your Future
Early indications suggest that most churches, when all is shaken out, may land around 75% of their pre-COVID community. Churches should embrace this new reality and live fully into a fresh opportunity to shape this gathered community into flourishing followers of Jesus Christ while continuing to connect disconnected folk in the neighborhood who long for the richness of authentic, purposeful relationships.