To say we are living in interesting times would be the understatement of the decade! Churches were thrust into a world of virtual worship seemingly overnight. For some churches, this was a brand new reality. For other churches, this was only ramping up what they were already doing. But regardless, having no onsite worship was an absolutely HUGE shift for ALL churches regardless of size or location.
Some churches went online willingly. Others went reluctantly. And a few went online kicking and screaming. But, most did indeed go online. What was their motive to do so? At least initially, most churches went online to offer worship to the people who were already gathering in their building. It wasn’t until churches went online did they begin to realize they had just entered a whole new mission field.
There are churches who are growing during this time of social distancing. In my coaching and observation, here is what those churches who are growing are doing:
- Whether churches went online seeing it originally or came to it eventually, growing churches are seeing the opportunity in reaching people they would never be able to reach in the building that they are now reaching online.
- Intentional and authentic hospitality is a non-negotiable. Growing online churches are being creative in offering an authentic, welcoming environment for both new and existing people through verbal hospitality (sincere welcome from worship host and pastor), written hospitality (screen and chat box), and aesthetically-pleasing hospitality (unassuming and comfortable online visual surroundings).
- Intentional relationship building is at their core. Growing online churches are not only staying in touch with their existing people, but they are finding creative and authentic means to connect and build relationships with new people.
- Growing churches do not think of their online presence as only online worship. Instead, they realize they are building a new or expanded online ministry. Virtual ministry includes comprehensive ministry offerings extending well beyond worship.
- They are in a both/and transition rather than an either/or time. Growing churches do not see online ministry as a stop gap until they get back into their building. Instead they see this as a second (or third) ministry site. This new ministry site will NOT be closed when the church is able to gather in person again.
- They can pivot! Growing churches have adaptive leaders (clergy, staff, and laity) who are willing and able to pivot. They have long since realized that there is no normal to return to and have embraced the unknown future ahead with eagerness and anticipation.
- Ultimately, these churches are missionally focused. That is, they are willing to adapt, change, pivot, give up, sacrifice, eliminate, create, shift, and hold nothing tightly other than to help people know and grow in Jesus Christ.
In this time of people being more open to exploring the church in a virtual world, what would a first-time guest experience be at your church? Which of the growing church practices above is your church implementing? Which practices would you be willing to adopt?