Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church

Will Your Church Survive COVID-19?

Will Your Church Survive COVID 19?

What do I mean?   I mean, will your congregation be around after COVID 19 is gone?    Some churches are losing their income flow; their giving is down 50% or more.    Many churches have an attendance that is down 60% or more even when they use technology.   It has been predicted that some congregations will cease to exist because they did not have sufficient income (giving) to keep the doors opened or because members disappeared during the pandemic.

Yes, hopefully, all the members will return with their giving when this is all over.  We should be optimistic and pray.   However, we have to face reality every Sunday as consistent attendance figures slowly dwindle and giving remains low. 

What May We Do About It Now?

First and foremost, don’t panic.   Most elderships are solid and are known for moving slowly and methodically; this is good.    Members in the pews are more likely to panic than leadership.  Some church staff, especially full-time staff, may panic because their incomes/livelihoods are at stake.  But then again, the Lord will take care of them in His own way.  I have also found that Christian people do their very best to supply the needs of church staff.   They follow Matthew 7:12.

Always remember that God is still in control and after all, the church is HIS church; He can do what He wishes with His church.   He promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against her.    He also promised that she is eternal.   In all reality, the church has faced worse enemies and worse circumstances.   But she remains!   True, she may not look like she did before COVID 19, but she will still be here.   And, the faithful (if they are still alive physically) will return in full force.

Mistakes to Avoid

Today I received a free 5 page booklet entitled 7 Mistakes Church Leaders Make Trying to Stop the Decline of Their Church (from effectivechurchleadership.com).

I am thankful for this little booklet and I will mention some things I find helpful with my comments:

Don’t Make These Mistakes:

Updating your building to make it more modern.   Nope.  You don’t need to do this.   Make sure it is clean, attractive and safe.   “Building” programs aren’t really needed right now unless a hurricane recently destroyed your building.

Adding another program or ministry.    You bet this one got my attention, and I agree.  Here’s what I suggest:

  1.   Review and revise all of your ministries; make them relevant in real time or end them.  In most cases, your ministries have slowed or stopped especially the maintenance ones.
  2.   Improve them when/where it is obviously necessary
  3.   Add new ministries that your present circumstances require; there are some things that churches are having to do now that they did not do six months ago.    Thorough cleaning and disinfecting are two of those things. Adding technology is another.
  4. Don’t overwhelm the brethren with new stuff.   The brethren are already overwhelmed with the pandemic, civil unrest, children going back to school and the election.  Soon they will be overwhelmed with the holidays and the regular flu season.
  5. Don’t demand commitment; they are already committed to protecting and providing for their families.   Never demand anything.

Being a copycat.   I’m not too worried about this one.  Most churches of Christ work hard to maintain what they’ve got and aren’t too concerned about copying a mega church in Texas or Tennessee or anywhere.   Focus on your local and congregational needs and fulfill as many as you can.

Overlooking your community.    Your community is YOUR mission field.  Find out what the pressing needs are in your local community and start to serve in those areas. It may be difficult to get volunteers to assist in meeting these needs because of fear of exposure to C-19.

Ignoring the digital age.    We can’t do this any longer.   The pandemic just sped up the process of using technology.   Improve your website (get one if you don’t have one), live stream your services and Bible classes, record your services, have elders, deacons, etc. meetings via zoom, etc.  Hey, when COVID 19 is over, continue to do meetings this way.  It will save tons of time.

Hiring new staff.   What right thinking leaders would do this?   Before the pandemic we were going to start looking for a youth minister this Fall.  But that is on hold for an indefinite period of time and rightfully so.   After the air is clear we might reconsider it.   Right now, get through all the immediate challenges one by one and deal with pressing items.

Not letting your mission and vision rule.     Sometimes in times of trial, we forget why we exist.    We need to revisit our church’s (or the Lord’s) mission statement and vision statements.    We need to be reminded why we exist and get back to doing it.   We are being distracted by many things and as a result we forget our mission. We may be fulfilling those in a different manner, but we need to get back to those things now if we have neglected them.    These statements were originally given to give leaders and members direction.   Let’s be honest here:  of all the times we need direction, it is now.   And, there are few things more exciting than seeing mission and vision statements fulfilled.

One Suggestion for Leadership

As shepherds of the church, you need to be in constant communication with your sheep.    I think it was the late Flavil Yeakley who said that members who stop attending church will reinvest their interest, time and money in something else within six weeks.  How many weeks has it been since the pandemic began?   More than six, right? 6 months!

In spite of all the use of technology many of your members are not engaged with the church in any way.    You, as shepherds, must engage them.   You need to divide the church directory up and all of you call all the members at least once a month to see how they are doing, to see if they have any needs, to show love and concern, pray with them, listen to them, minister to them, in some cases, you will want to help them with technology so they can attend services and Bible classes—or just simply pastor the sheep.   Certain disconnected members are less likely to reinvest their time, money and energy in something else if you pastor them.

And, the ‘given’ in all of this is to PRAY, and to pray as never before. 

I am interested in what you have to say.   Please reply or email me at involvementcoach@att.net

Trav

How Does Your Congregation Feel About Change?

Do We Want to Return to Normal or Use Change for Growth Opportunities?

In a few more days, it will be 6 months since churches were first challenged to either continue to assemble or not.   However, church assemblies are not the only challenge church leaders and members have faced.   Other changes have and will take place.
Join others to discuss the nature of change and the opportunities that change has and can provide for the church.  A return to normal appears to be goal of some congregations.  Should this be the goal for all of us?
Below is our schedule with an invitation to participate in a discussion about these and other change-related questions.   
Our goal?   Come and see.
Trav
Travis Irwin is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: How Does Your Congregation Feel About Change?
Time: Aug 27, 2020 02:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Don’t Waste This Crisis

Don’t Waste this Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited our movement, emptied our stores, closed our schools, taken our jobs and prevented us from assembling.    Several articles have addressed the issue of “closings.”    Folks have responded with articles on what is still “open.”

We have a choice when it comes to responding to this pandemic.   One choice is to be angry and refuse to cooperate with authorities.     Another one is to be unhappy and be controlled by our circumstances.     However, there is an alternative:  we can use this time, as some have suggested, to spend more time together with family, spend more time reading the Bible, more time praying, etc.

I suggest that we should use this crisis as an opportunity to grow spiritually.  In the April 24, 2020 issue of “World” magazine, Audree Sue Peterson suggests that we should be setting and achieving spiritual goals as we shelter in place.

For example, if we don’t learn patience during this crisis, this time would have been wasted.   A crisis without opportunity is hopeless.   Our present crisis, however, presents many opportunities.

We should also be spending this time making plans for what is waiting for us when this pandemic is over (some are now saying that it may not be over for several years).     The pandemic has changed our assemblies, Bible classes and outreach already.    When it subsides or goes away, its affects will remain for years to come.   In some businesses future plans have been moved up to the present.   Some congregations had plans for the future, and this pandemic has  forced them to go ahead and implement the plans.     Medical professionals had future plans for telemedicine in two or three years.   Guess what?  They are doing it now.  Necessity demands the change===ahead of schedule.    Churches are faced with a similar phenomenon.   For example, as the church turns more and more gray, more opportunities/challenges will come to use virtual means to communicate with those older members who cannot get out.    However, we are being forced to do such right now.   Similar things are happening with church education.   Fewer and fewer are att3nding Bible classes.   Solution?   Virtual.  We’re doing that now; it can’t wait no longer.

While you are in the thick of this pandemic, I suggest you some spend time evaluating and assessing several things in your congregation.  You may object by saying that you are too busy just trying to adjust to this new norm/reality.  However, I suggest that you look at the following in this context because issues are fresh on your minds.   If you wait til everything returns to normal (which, it never will be same again), you will forget what you are learning ln a daily basis now.  Following are a few suggestions:

  1.   Assess your mission statement as a church.     Most congregations don’t even have a mission statement.   If you are one of those, I strongly suggest you get one or credit one.  The pandemic can show you where you are weak and where you need to make changes.   Your core values are coming to the top; possibly some changes need to be made.   For those who have a mission statement, the challenges of this pandemic may have provided church leaders ideas for revised and updated mission statements.  
  2.   Assess your assemblies.     We haven’t assembled for 12 weeks.   We have had virtual worship services all this time.    We don’t have all the elements in virtual services and we’ve added one more:  communication for an elder each week.  Sometimes our normal assemblies are stuck in a rut and need to be evaluated.  I am NOT promoting unscriptural worship; I AM promoting assemblies that truly worship the Lord, communicate to the church, edify the church and emphasize just how important being together is.    

You might want to ask this question, “Should we stop having Sunday evening services?”    Face two facts:  Sunday night attendance has been going down for years, and you haven’t been attending Sunday night services since the pandemic started.   Why start up something that was dying in the first place, and hasn’t been utilized for 12 weeks.   To me, Sunday night services are a thing of the past.    This is something to think about.  

  •   Assess your Bible classes.   If your congregation is like most, only 50% of your membership attends.    For the past 12 weeks 100% of your congregation may have not attended Bible classes.   I am not advocating doing away from Bible study.   However, this is an opportunity to do it differently when you get back together.    Some are advocating returning the responsibility of teaching children to their parents.    There is material available to help parents teach their children at home.   I would also strong urge leadership to know what their children and adults are being taught.   Some of it is heavily repeated and some areas are totally neglected.    And some printed material is weak and, in some cases has false doctrine.    Why not take some time to review everything.
  •   Assess small groups.   Some congregations already have small groups.  Those who do and those who have trained well, they work well.   While you were not assembling as a whole, several of your members met in smaller groups, many without your knowing.  Definitely families met together.  This crisis also affords you the opportunity to rethink why you have small groups.  You may revise your purposes, add others and delete some.
  •   Assess all of your ministries.   Some of your ministries will die.  Some should die.   New ministries will begin because of a new need.   New needs have surfaced during the crisis.  Assessment of ministries need to be done constantly.   Good stewardship and common-sense demand it.
  •   Assess your church budget.    Let’s face it, the church budget in most cases has been hit hard by this pandemic.   In most cases, members have done a pretty good with their giving the first month of the pandemic.   The second month was/is a disaster.    Some churches have closed their doors forever their giving tanked.   Some are having to make big adjustments.   One thing is for sure, you need to communicate to the congregation the need for them to continue to give during the crisis.   Salaries continue to be paid, bills continue to come in and emergency needs arise.    Members laid off need help.   Community needs offer opportunities to serve and many of these cost money.
  •   Assess your means of communication.    We use eight or nine means of communicating with our members.   A large number of means should be used all the time.    Budwiser and other vice-producing companies spend billions advertising to and communicating with us.  We can’t do less; we must do more.
  •   Assess your staff.    You may have to let someone go because of the money.  You may have to hire someone to do a ministry that now requires a full time staffer.   Someone on staff may have to submit to a new/different job description.   Some of this is obvious and some of it will not.

I’d like to hear from you.   Please share how you are using this crisis to make some needed changes.

Trav

Healthy Body Checklist

Healthy Body Checklist for Churches

  1.   Does 20% or less of your church’s membership do all the work in the church?
  2.   Do you have to beg for volunteers?   (e.g. Bible class teachers, men leading worship)?
  3.   Does a healthy percentage of your members serve others in your community?
  4.   Are your church ministries evaluated at least once a year?
  5.   Do all your congregation’s ministries have intentional purposes?
  6.   Does your congregation provide continual training for members who volunteer?
  7.   Does your congregation express appreciation for those who volunteer and serve?
  8.   The members who volunteer and serve, are they happy in their service?
  9.   Could your members tell someone what your congregation’s core values are?
  10.   Is individual spiritual growth admired, expected, and encouraged?

If you answered either of the first two questions with a “Yes” or any of the other questions with a “No,” the health of your congregation may be compromised.  Please contact me so we can work together to make the health of your church more certain.

What do you do as an involvement coach?

I assist church leaders who are concerned with congregational stagnation by planning and executing a customized plan to assess every member of their non-miraculous gifts, personalities, passions, life skills and life experiences for the purpose of getting them into ministries for which God has designed them.

Contact me and let’s talk on Zoom about a plan for your congregation.

Travis Irwin, involvement coach
423 920 3060
involvementcoach@att.net

involvementcoach@att.net

While Ministry Is Not Normal

During this time of pandemic, many of the church’s ministries are either dormant or limited.  However, this does NOT mean that we can sit idly by as a church or as individuals.  There are many other opportunities for serving others who are members and non-members in our church and community.  Your congregation collectively and individually must learn to be creative and flexible when it comes to serving your members and people in your community.

The pandemic is challenging us on several levels:  our jobs, our shopping, our schooling, our travel, our economy, and church attendance.  However, many of us haven’t thought of how the pandemic has affected and will affect future ministry in the church. This is not a time for neglect but action.

What About Right Now?

Here’s what I suggest to you for your consideration.   Starting today, you need to encourage and equipmem bers to revamp present ministries so they become relevant now.   More importantly, several ministries need to spring up in which individuals or small groups of members can serve.   For examples, your local nursing homes, hospitals, stores, police department, EMS, schools, the local Y and such are full of people that need encouragement.   You can’t go inside and spent time with them but you can do something for them.

More of your ministries, present and future also need to be designed for non-members and for folks in your community.   New ministries should focus on needs of individuals and groups of people in your town.   Individuals should start taking personal responsibility to create ministry and do it.   Individual Christians should not wait for a formal ministry to exist before they serve in some meaningful way. Jesus went about doing good, and so should we.   In a smaller town, members should know just about everybody in town and know some real needs.   In larger towns, the news agencies and newspapers will inform us of opportunities to serve.

Actual ideas on how to serve others: members and non-members

(these can be done by individuals, couples, families, Bible classes, and teams)

Most importantly, as always, Practice all COVID 19 protocol.

Brainstorm alone and with others on the phone and be creative.  Fulfill the new ideas by serving BOTH members and those in your community.

Have parades past houses or nursing homes; get permission first

Caroling – go to members’ homes and sing hymns/favorite ones

Go shopping for others (groceries, medicine, etc. for members or those in the community)

There are dozens of things you can do virtually; however, many older people do not know how to use technology or do not have it.   ZOOM is great for communicating with your members with daily devotionals, Bible classes and worship services.  Use Facebook, Marco Polo and other mediums to communicate also.

Email folks and communicate daily with them

Phone calls that are uplifting and encouraging; show real concern—also ask if there is anything you can for them.  Make regular phone calls.  Some folks will even tell you to call on a certain day every week to check on them.

Visitation through windows at people’s homes or nursing homes (make appointments to do either of these)

Send cards via snail mail (for anniversaries, birthdays, get well, encouragement)

Gifts – small things: soaps, candy bars, toiletries, something cute, etc. leave on the porch or have them mailed to people.   You can loan music CDs and movie DVDs.

Flowers – these could be fresh flowers from your garden

Gift cards they can use on line; we have found food cards are also popular (e.g. Cracker Barrel)

Donate blood.    Have your children color pictures and send/give them to older folks.

Provide meals and leave on porches; you could do the cooking or buy the food

When out and about a cordial greeting is welcomed, and if your face is uncovered, smile–there’s nothing like it.   In fact, some folks paint a smile on their masks.

Don’t overlook vets, the disabled, shut-ins, the vulnerable and widows.  

Do something for local nursing homes and hospital staff (drinks and snacks). Just the other day, someone donated fresh picked greenbeans for a nursing facility. Many residents snapped the beans and got to eat them. What joy that brought to those residents.

Do something for the local police department, fire fighters, EMS (meal, snacks, cards and notes of support and appreciation, etc)

Do yard work for folks.   Do home repairs for people.

Donate money to worthy causes especially those that help people during these difficult times.

If you are able bodied, it doesn’t matter how young or old you are—you should be willing to help

If you are not able-bodied, you can pray and encourage those who are serving or possibly donate funds that can used to help others.

Do more study on-line for more ideas

Note:  at the end of July the government $ runs out; what will people do then? And, whether our government gives people money or not, these opportunities to serve remain.

Start now preparing to help folks in and out of the church.

Introducing “Involvement Coach”

I assist church leaders who have concerns about congregational stagnation in creating and executing a customized plan to assess each member in spiritual gifts, personalities and life skills and experiences for the goal of getting all members involved in ministries best suited for them.

Contact me today so we can start working on a plan for your congregation.

Travis Irwin

423 920 3060

involvementcoach@att.net

How Do You Move the Brethren from the Sitting Position to the Serving Position?

Involvement Coach exists to assist churches and church leaders in moving church members from the sitting position to the serving position.    As important as sitting and worshiping are, there comes a time in every Christian’s life when he or she should be serving others.    We call this Christian maturity.

Every Christian has been blessed with a non-miraculous spiritual gift, passions, life experiences, a personality and other blessings that they are to be using to serve others.    We help Christians discover how God has created them for His purpose and for Ministry.

Contact me today so I can design a plan for your congregation.

Travis Irwin, Athens, TN involvementcoach@att.net

423 920 3060

Raising the Bar of Discipleship

Timothy Gunnells

A couple of years ago I was invited to moderate a panel discussion at the Church Involvement Conference in Athens, Tennessee. The panel related to Millennials and the practice of faith, or reaching them and keeping them. The primary message that stood out with universal agreement from the panelists is that Millennials (and younger generations) desire to be challenged and not coddled. The younger generations appear to have more in common with the Greatest Generation than the Generation Xers (my generation) and the Boomers. Yet, it is these last two generations that are in leadership in most churches, thus, the apparent disconnect.

Millennials and their younger counterparts, it seems, take Jesus admonition to “take up your cross daily” pretty seriously (Luke 9:23). They aren’t pushing to jettison all traditions or make wholesale changes to worship practices, but they do deeply desire a more profound and sincere approach to following Jesus. They take the Greatest Commands (Matthew 22:34-40) to heart, they want to see sincerity and genuineness, and they seek real community. That all sounds really good to me!

This all got me thinking back to a phrase I have heard throughout my life that I saw illustrated first-hand: “raising the bar”. What exactly does that mean, and what does it have to do with the Bible, church leadership, and reaching and keeping the younger generations for Christ?

My daughter worked with a pole vault coach while she was in high school who won an Olympic Gold Medal in the sport. His name is Tim Mack, and he won in the games in Athens, Greece. He was in his 30s when he won, and he had failed to make the team twice before. What he discovered and what I saw play out in his coaching sessions is this, you have to literally raise the bar higher if you ever expect to go higher. In my daughter’s case and in the case of her fellow athletes, he would raise the bar sometimes when they weren’t even hitting the current height he thought they could reach, and they would go much higher. What he relayed to me is that athletes will usually only try to hit the height of the bar where it is placed and not go much higher, in so doing, they will often fail to even hit the lower mark. Interesting, isn’t it?

The Hebrew writer, in Hebrews 12, upped the ante in his challenge and encouragement to his readers to stay true to Jesus and keep the faith. He moved on from Moses and the other heroes of the Faith and went to Jesus instead. He held Jesus up as the example of perseverance and success and suggested that they hadn’t even “resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Hebrews 12:1-4). Talk about raising the bar!

So, maybe we have failed the younger generations by not expecting enough from them when it comes to discipleship. Perhaps we have tried to fashion things like we think they would like for them to be, or just force them into a model of ministry that we like better, instead of truly embracing the truths of Scripture to deny our self and take up our cross.

I would encourage you, as an individual, to raise the level of expectation you have for yourself in following Jesus. I would encourage church leaders to raise the level of expectation and paint a genuine picture of discipleship in your churches. I would encourage Millennials and younger generations to help us see what we are missing that would do more to raise the bar of expectations for all of us.

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12)

Timothy Gunnells, DMin.

Associate Professor of Bible, Leadership, and Ministry at Amridge University

timothygunnells@gmail.com

I had the privilege to work with Tim when he was our full-time pulpit minister here in Athens.   Tim and his wife Kristin currently lead our youth group.  He and family are a great blessing to the church here.   Tim travels all over the country assisting churches in the area of leadership.   He is especially interested in helping church plants in this area.

Minister leads Widowhood Workshops

Dean Miller

Dean Miller knows firsthand how difficult life can be after the death of a spouse.


Dean Miller has preached the Gospel all his life. 

At 67, he shares a message of hope for widows and widowers. This ministry was born out of the loss of his wife and seeks to lift others and himself out of the depths of sadness and depression. 

Miller served churches in Tennessee and Ohio for over 45 years. For 33 of those years, he ministered to the Hartville Church of Christ in Ohio.

A 1976 graduate of Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson,Tenn., Miller married Ruth Ann, his high school girlfriend, at 19. After 33 years of marriage, Ruth Ann was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and suffered eight years of decline. She died Christmas Day 2013 after 41 years of marriage.

After struggling to find himself and his place in a new world of singlehood, Miller began speaking and teaching on widowhood.

In 2014, he launched Widowhood Workshop as a part-time ministry with his family’s help. This year, he transitioned to full-time widowhood ministry under the oversight of the LaVergne Church of Christ in Tennessee.

Dean has three daughters, Michelle Johnson, Melissa Cere (husband Tony) and  Deanna Johnson (husband Chris), and five grandchildren.


Given the extreme environment and isolation that many are experiencing during the COVID-19 crisis, what are some specific actions we can take to support the widowed? 

This crisis magnifies an already existing problem — social disconnect and isolation. The most effective ministry now may be in using the human voice. One widow shared with me, “It gets old just talking to the dog, because she doesn’t always answer me.” 

Call them or FaceTime them. Have a list of things to talk with them about. That conversation will likely reveal their needs. Inquire about their eating habits. Drop food off at their house. Have children tape a picture to their window. Do a version of caroling from their front yard or porch. Do not ask them what they need. Just do things that will let them know they have not been forgotten.

Besides understandable grief at one’s loss, what other emotions do widowed persons experience? 

Loneliness is almost always the first emotion discussed in my workshops because attendees commonly associate this with widowhood. The loneliness is unparalleled because marriage is the most precious and intimate of human relationships.

“Do not ask them what they need. Just do things that will let them know they have not been forgotten.”

TWEET THIS

Uncertainty is another feeling. That uncertainty can fester and turn into fear. Questions about the future can be so overwhelming that one begins to doubt their ability to cope.

Going out in public in a “coupled” world, when you are no longer part of a couple, creates social awkwardness. Anger is common and often targets medical professionals, the departed spouse, even God. Then there is a loss of one’s identity. Previously one was a wife or a husband, half of a whole. Now that whole no longer exists, so who are you? A wide range of emotions is often experienced.

What special needs do the widowed have? 

They need not to be forgotten. How many churches even know how many widowed members they have and who they are? Our long- term care leaves much to be desired. 

One brother observed that we are good at the three C’s: cards, condolences and casseroles. After that, everybody goes home, but only one goes to their home alone. Widowed people are often socially deprived.Widows need people who minister to them, long after the cemetery, by presence in their lives. 

People minister by the “laying on of ears.” There is nothing like the deafening silence in a widowed person’s house at night, especially in the long winter nights. Then, there are those special days when life after loss is more difficult: birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Forgotten translates into feeling forsaken.

What about widowhood do we all need to be sensitive to? 

Please don’t ever tell a widowed person, “I know how you feel,” because we don’t. Life’s losses help us appreciate another’s struggle or even empathize, but to say, “I know how you feel” can almost be offensive. 

Also, respect the personal nature of the grief journey. They are going through something they have never experienced. Their behaviors may seem out of character. Healing may take much longer than anticipated. Don’t push. Just walk with them in their grief journey, no matter what, no matter how long.

Does widowhood challenge faith? 

It certainly can. The loss of a beloved mate can shake one to their spiritual core. Why did God do this? Or why did he permit this? We may question why we feel so awful, knowing our mate is at home with the Lord. Don’t I have enough faith?

“The loss of a beloved mate can shake one to their spiritual core.”

TWEET THIS

We can become internally conflicted like the father who brought his troubled son to Jesus: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). It’s not just the loss that can challenge our faith but the difficulty of living daily with the reality of the loss. 

Our “feeler” and our faith aren’t always on the same page. Sadly, we are sometimes inclined to give our feelings more credence than our faith. Loss is not a choice, but how we respond to it is. Loss can be what drives us to our knees. It can prompt us to more passionately seek the Lord than ever before. Faith tried can also grow and become stronger (1 Peter 1:6-7James 1:2-4).

How can churches serve the daily needs of the widowed? 

Educate families regarding their responsibility to be the first line of ministry (1 Timothy 5:3-16). However, to minister effectively, education has to be provided to those families about grief, especially the grief experienced in spousal loss. 

It pains me to see widowed people sitting alone in our assemblies. As strange as it may seem to the inexperienced, church can be a really hard place for the widowed to go. It’s a blunt reminder of loss. What sweet words: “May I sit with you today?” Help them find a ministry. Often, the person left behind was engaged in a ministry with their spouse. 

What is their place in the church now that they are involuntarily single? Launching active local widowhood ministries is so important. These ministries can provide the encouragement widows and widowers need. They help rebuild social networks and even provide that ministry “fit” so important after loss.

Did widowhood change your relationship with your children and grandchildren? 

Yes. It brought us closer together, even though we have always been separated geographically. 

One evidence of that is the Widowhood Workshop ministry. We call it our “family passion project.” All 11 of us are working together in this ministry doing different things, even the five grandchildren. 

They make door prizes for the workshops and serve attendees at our annual summer Widow/Widower Retreat in Middle Tennessee. We talk freely about “Nana” anytime we are together. We have chosen to have our loss bind us together even more closely. 

WEBSITE: widowhoodworkshop.com

From The Christian Chronicle, June, 2020.    

Dean Miller was a key note speaker at the 4th Annual Church Involvement Conference.

How Will COVID-19 Affect Involvement in the Future?

For several weeks we have been seeing how COVID-19 is affecting the Lord’s church.  We have had to make major adjustments.  These adjustments, in some cases, will become permanent behavior in the church.  Unless you are comfortable with change, you may be very uncomfortable with what’s occurring.  We are beginning to believe that we can never totally go back to the previous ‘church’ normal.   Some of these changes may actually be for the ‘better’ of the church.  Bottom line:  it will be about another new normal.

I am seeing many congregations/leaderships doing a very good job of dealing with all the issues associated with the virus.   Many churches have virtual worship services and Bible classes.   Some churches have parking lot services.  Some are having several smaller services every Sunday.  I am reading that some churches will permanently go to the virtual worship services plus small groups for Bible study.   The Sunday morning and Wednesday evening Bible classes, as we once knew them, may no longer exist or may exist in a new form.   We may need fewer men to lead worship services.  Large church buildings may no longer be necessary. Fewer full-time staff may be needed.  Church leadership (elders) will always be needed; the way they operate may be quite different.  For example, our elders meet through ZOOM.  Deacons may serve a smaller group of members.   Some churches no longer have anything for Sunday evenings and others may forfeit Sunday evening assemblies totally.    However, Sunday evening services have been getting rarer before the virus.  Giving has been hit hard for many churches.    Some congregations will close their doors because the giving has dropped so dramatically.  On-line giving has not resolved many of our giving woes.  More needs to be done this area.

But how may all this affect involvement?    How are these changes going to affect members in ministry?    Remember that before the virus, most ministries were church-building centered and most ministries were internal (they served the needs of the local church).   That has changed radically in the past few weeks.   Most church ministries lay dormant at this moment.   What will happen?  What is happening?

Involvement may become more individualistic.  More members may be encouraged to use their individual gifts and passions to serve a specific group of people or other individuals.   We usually have several ministries made up of several people (in each) who serve.  For example, we have one ministry that is made up of 25 or more members that serves, in many instances, the entire congregation.  That would change to a few serving a few or individuals serving individuals.     If the church divides into smaller groups, the members of said groups may serve in a more individualistic manner—members of said group serving one another.   There will be opportunities to serve members in one’s personal small group.

Involvement may be more home-centered and less building-centered.   Many of our (before the virus) ministries are/were done within a church edifice/building (e.g. greeters, Lord’s Supper preparation, building preparation, parking valets, ushers, childcare, security, fellowship meals, A/V, etc.).   If the church met in small groups, ministries would be done in one’s home or in the homes of others.  This would open up new opportunities for service.  No doubt about it, new types of ministries will evolve and come into being.   Need always drives ministries.

If we continue to assemble together in church edifices, how greeters operate may change, how the Lord’s Supper is prepared and served will change, fellowship meals may be a thing of the past (at least for a while), Bible classes, nurseries and other people ministries may be permanently modified or changed.  All of these are ministries in your congregation and ministry will change.   Some new ministries will come about and some will end.

Involvement may be less about worship assemblies and church administration.   Think about this for a moment.   How many folks does it take to organize and lead a Sunday morning worship service?  In our case, it takes a minimum of 11 men.   If you were in a small Bible study group and/or if your worship was done virtually, you would need fewer men.  Social distancing and how communion are done will change for ‘normal’ or traditional assemblies. Giving has already been affected and how we continue to give will be greatly modified.  Ministries related to church buildings are many and require lots of administration, and in many cases, money.   This may all change.   There is some writing out there that says that less full-time staff would be necessary.   Elders would be ‘stretched’ to attend several smaller groups and pastor one or more of these.  Note: I was reading recently about one congregation having 10 (ten) worship assemblies one Sunday morning so they could social-distance and still get the church together.   Will that be an option for your church?

Involvement may be more evangelistic.   Most small groups are designed to bring people to Christ.   If a congregation goes to the small group method and the groups are intentionally designed to win people to Christ, more and more members will be involved in the process of bringing and discipling new members.   This may  be a welcomed improvement over what is presently done in your congregation.  BTW:  these groups would be limited to ten people—unless the rules change.

Are there some obstacles and challenges?     Absolutely.   You’ve already had some of these and when you (attempt to) go back to the way things were, you will encounter some difficulties and adjustments. Some members want to go back to the way things were before the virus.   Some will NOT want to go back.   All of this requires unity and a desire to grow numerically and spiritually.  Some of the new changes will bring blessings and advantages.    

I have shared my limited observations and opinions.  I now want to hear from you.  What do you think will happen to involvement?   What will it look like in the future?  Maybe we, together, can assist the church in her quest in membership ministry in the near and distant future.   I look forward to your replies.    Just “reply” and make your comments and send.    Thank you.

Trav

https://churchinvolvement.com/2020/05/how-will-c-19-affect-ministry/

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