As we discussed in the Pastors: Keys to Shepherding Post-Covid blog, pastors are facing uncharted waters on many fronts going through and (hopefully) coming out of the pandemic. While we looked at the internal challenge with church volunteers in that first piece, it’s also crucial to help our congregations “turn our eyes to the fields” and engage our communities. The financial, emotional, relational – you name it – challenges that Covid wrought have truly ripened the harvest field. We have a tremendous opportunity to bring hope and encouragement to our neighborhoods and cities. As pastors, we must help lead those efforts.
One of the key paradigm shifts that have begun to sink in for the church (although some have been there for some time already) is that the American church has to get “out of the box.” The model where the church building is the center of everything and all our efforts are designed to bring people to that physical location has changed dramatically. It doesn’t mean the church building doesn’t have a role any longer, but the mindset has to change. Covid taught us that ministry doesn’t – and can’t – stop when the building is closed. Instead of trying to draw everyone in, the church must go out…to where the people already are.
Obviously, this has a big impact on our approach to church events. Most church events are similarly centered or built upon the assumption of the church building. Sunday mornings, youth group, mom’s groups, prayer meetings, VBS – they all tend to orbit around the ‘center of the spiritual galaxy’ – the church building. But as the church has been painfully learning, it is getting tougher and tougher (for varying reasons) to draw people, even our own congregants, to that space.
We have to go back to the true purpose of our Fall events – which is generally to forge and develop relationships. With our congregants, between our congregants, with our communities, etc. Especially coming out of the pandemic, we are dealing with the severe (if even unconscious) impacts like a general hesitancy to meet in person; loss of community; loss of relationships, interaction, and intimacy; loneliness and isolation. Simply ‘reopening our doors’ isn’t going to bring in the masses from our communities. As Pastors, we have to lead our staff and congregations and help them understand this shift and how to adapt to it.
To reiterate this again, the goal isn’t ‘events’ – the goal is true engagement and relationship development. In our culture, this now must be approached with a different mindset. We have to go TO our communities…not wait for them to come to us. What does this look like? Well, it can be simple things like hosting these events (bible studies, mom’s groups) in homes; throw ‘block parties’ for neighborhoods hosted by church families; partner with local businesses or governments to host food or back-to-school supply drives. Engage your staff and congregants – let them catch this vision and propose ways to connect.
Let me conclude by encouraging all of us pastors that it is vital that we encourage, engage, and support these efforts. Congregations (and staff) can tell if a pastor truly believes in it…and they tend to follow suit. Let’s be faithful shepherds and lead our flocks into these new fields.
As the Vice President of Marketing for ACS Technologies’, John is responsible for Marketing’s overall corporate strategy and direction. Storyteller, promoter, problem solver to churches of all sizes and shapes. John has traveled the world working with prominent non-profit ministries. He also serves on the board of directors for Dayspring International.
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