Has your congregation returned to in-person worship? If your attendance now is even 60% of your pre-pandemic attendance, you’re seeing better than most. So, how can you get people to come back to church after the pandemic?
Now is the time of great opportunity. Reach out to your members with personal invites to come back. But, don’t box yourself in thinking of only those who haven’t yet returned in person, but also think of those you may have reached virtually who have never stepped through your doors. Look and reach outward into the community around you to connect in new ways.
Here are just a few ideas to get you started…
Reach out to your members.
Before the pandemic, how many of us were intentional about calling our members to check on them on a regular basis? If we’re being honest with ourselves, probably not many. While things seem to have turned to the virtual world even more now, this is a time you can connect one-on-one with your members and personally invite them back to church. Of course, we urge patience and encouragement as some may still not be comfortable coming back into crowds. However, they will appreciate a personal connection and keep your church top of mind when they get to the place to come back.
Where children lead, parents follow.
It’s no secret that many parents with children love a time where they can relax, knowing their children are safe and enjoying themselves. Not to mention, it’s a small break for the parents to breathe and connect with other parents. Focus some planning on your children’s programs, and be sure to offer adult programs such as bible studies, women’s guild meetings, choir practices, small groups, or others simultaneously. Use targeted communications such as emails directly to parents, or have your children and adult ministry leaders call parents in your congregation to add a personal touch.
Plan a kickoff weekend.
You’ve heard of job fairs and holiday bazaars. Think along those same lines as you plan a weekend ministry kickoff. Make sure all hands are on deck for your staff to be involved and plan for each ministry to be represented. Make it a community welcome event to let those around you know your church’s mission and vision, and have volunteers in place to greet those new faces and those who haven’t been present in a while. Make this a weekend that says to your congregation and community, “We are open for ministry!”
Create an experience for the unchurched and dechurched.
How do you make people feel comfortable and welcome when they come to your church? It’s normal for those who never stepped through church doors to be nervous, but those who have been away during the pandemic may also be apprehensive as they are entering back into your congregation. Start in the parking lot and carry a warm welcome all the way to the sanctuary. Have greeters in place who know those who are regular attendees, those who have been away for a while, and those who are completely new.
More challenging is to use language and music that appeals to the people in the community once they are sitting in your pews. Communicate as if unchurched people are in the room! Start your service with a welcome and be sure to explain things that a newcomer may not understand, especially if it’s “inside language.” Take time to have everyone turn to their neighbor in front, back, and next to them and offer a friendly hello to break the ice. And afterward, offer coffee and treats to encourage people to meet and interact with each other.
We are back!
While it may seem that we are not “back” based on in-person attendance, this is a time to move forward while continuing to invite people to be part of the celebration. By staying in touch with your members, you let them know you care and invite them back when they are ready. And by reaching out to those in your community, you may bring in those who never thought of stepping through your doors before the pandemic. We’re back in new and inspiring ways.
Leigh Ann Shelley joined the ACST team in 2019 as a Product Marketing Manager, overseeing the launch and overall communication of key solutions to support the church’s needs. Prior to joining ACST, she spent several years in communications and graphic design roles, most notably as a Communications Director for a large church in Florence, SC, where she leveraged Realm to help solve key ministry challenges.