I have been observing one major reason people won’t rush to return to our churches. It isn’t the virus. I totally understand why someone who is high risk wouldn’t rush to return to in-person services.
For many, however, it’s not the virus keeping them away from services.
People have fallen into a nice routine of online and in-home worship. Some of our best leaders have told me they enjoy their new morning routine. That might include watching an online service and it might not. It might include going out to breakfast, going to the lake, or sleeping in until noon. They will catch up with us sometime during the week, but not always during the actual service times.
While this is a current reality for many church members, when I talk candidly to my pastor friends, this is frustrating. I understand. I look at numbers too. I feel the weight of filling our building and budgets.
But none of us can escape reality. So, what now?
Here are 5 things I would suggest for pastor friends:
1. Extend grace to people
Yes they need truth, but these are unusual times. People have to find their rhythm again. And the right challenge for us might be to help them do so, not to burden them with guilt.
2. Chill out
Don’t panic. That should apply throughout your leadership. An old principle is if the leader panics so will everyone else. Your staff and volunteers are watching you. They get their perspective and hope from you. And both are contagious.
You’ve likely said for years that numbers are God’s business. Our job is doing all we can to be ready for those who attend, but God brings the increase. Keep in mind, that is true in this season also.
3. Measure different things
Most churches are still going to measure something. We will still count actual heads in the room, but how many are engaging online? How many of those could we get to participate in an online Bible study? What could we do to spur discipleship “growth” in a virtual world? If this is going to be a “new normal” for a while, then let’s go where the people are and keep making disciples.
4. Use this season as an opportunity
This pandemic has forced us to improvise. Let’s not lose sight of that now that some of us can open our buildings. Let’s keep exploring, testing and trying new things.
Many of us have been sensing this change in attendance patterns for years. A pandemic exposed it faster than we could have imagined, but it’s not the time to give up. It’s the time to get going towards where God could best use the Church in the future.
5. Keep inviting people
Don’t give up on people just yet. This is unprecedented. It will likely alter some people’s attendance patterns for a long time – and for some maybe forever. This doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that they are no longer a part of your church. I’m for church attendance. I think it’s biblical and helpful and we shouldn’t quit trying to get them to join us. But we may have to be even more creative to create environments they want to attend.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared on ChurchAnswers.com, an online community and resource for church leaders.