The last two years have brought a decade’s worth of change to the culture and to the church. If unchurched people were reluctant to visit your church before, why would they come now and risk getting sick, right? Clearly, the new front door of the church is the online worship service. The side door of your church is (and has been) small groups. Think about how you can connect with more unchurched people online and through your groups.
What do People in Your Community Need?
What are their biggest needs? Many people are struggling with worry and anxiety. In fact, the head of curriculum at Zondervan recently told me that their top selling Bible studies are all about worry and anxiety. Could you launch a small group study about worry and anxiety? Here are some options. But, there are many other needs.
Many people struggle in their relationships, their marriages, or their parenting. This is a great opportunity to offer an online webinar on these topics that leads to on-going small groups. Don’t skip that on-going part. That’s where the real benefit happens.
What are the physical needs of your neighbors? Whether people are neighbors to the church or neighbors of your small groups, what do they need? Do they need financial help? Do they need childcare? How can your groups meet these needs?
If you aren’t sure about the needs in your community, ask them. Send a postcard or email asking them to take a survey in exchange for a Chick-fil-A gift card or similar. If you’re tough, then go knock on some doors. Ask your small group leaders about what their neighbors and co-workers are concerned about. Identify the real needs, and then do something about it.
What Does Your Church Do Best?
What are the collective gifts and abilities of your church members and your small groups? How could your members and groups meet the needs of your community? Even if your church doesn’t have an abundance of finances to share, how could your people serve? With worship attendance down, you don’t have the needs for guest services like you did before. How can you mobilize this time and talent to serve in your community? What non-profit organizations need help?
If you want to attract young families to your church, offer a Kids Night Out. Your church provides free childcare during the evening, so parents can go out on a date, and the church has an opportunity to minister to children. These family connections could lead to something bigger.
A while back I talked to a pastor in rural Indiana. The biggest issue in his community was opiod addiction. His church was small with mostly elderly members, but his church offered what they had to people struggling with addiction. They gave warm meals, relationship, and love. It’s just what the addicts needed.
What is your church gifted to do? Do it.
What are You Willing to Try?
The first thing is to evaluate all of the current ministries and roles in your church. What is bearing fruit? Keep that. What is struggling, but could get going with a little effort? Give it the effort. What is on life support? It’s probably time for that to go. You have limited time, energy, and resources. You have to invest in what’s bearing the most fruit for your church.
Pilot something. Try something new “because of COVID.” Experiment with varieties of online groups. Dip your toe into the waters of digital discipleship. Get the church outside of the four walls of your building and show your community what it really means to be a follower of Jesus. Show them that you are people who love and accept no matter what. Show them genuine, loving people who don’t have a political agenda or an allegiance apart from Jesus. Your loving Savior is still very attractive to unchurched people.
Think About This
I am the first to admit that the church and ministry have been completely discombobulated. This isn’t the governments’ doing. This isn’t the pandemics’ doing. This is God’s doing. Why has God chosen to so confuse things that your church needs to realign its priorities and do things differently?
Back in the 90’s we approached ministry like the Field of Dreams: If we build it, they will come. When COVID hit, they left. You have to move forward. You have to lead the church you have and not the church you lost. It’s painful. It’s sorrowful. You have a loss to mourn. But, you have an opportunity to reach lost and hurting people in unprecedented ways. 2019 isn’t coming back. How will you reach the unchurched in 2022?
How is your church connecting with unchurched people? Let me know in the comments.