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:
- 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.
- Improve them when/where it is obviously necessary
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org