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How can we respond as leaders to actually gain ground in this time for the regions we serve?

As leaders of networks and denominations, there is a great opportunity in the Church today as we navigate COVID-19. Our culture has been given the gift of margin in its busyness, some sacred cows that have existed for decades are locked in the barn and a window is open to pivot to new strategies to reach our communities for Jesus. 

How can we respond as leaders to actually gain ground in this time for the regions we serve?

What was true before in our churches and our culture?

  • Attendance in 80% or more on weekend services had plateaued or were in decline, most mainline denominations have seen an 18-25% decline in the past 10 years
  • Average Sunday attendance considered “regular attendee” had dropped to 1.8 times per month
  • Online purchasing, banking and easy access is simply expected across all industries
  • Great content is a commodity as people can take steps, watch services and listen to their favorite teachers across the world online

These trends have only been accelerated by this crisis. Struggling churches will find less margin for sustainability and the timeline they had to make changes has and is shrinking.

What can we do about it?

  • Review our vision, reset our regional operational goals and develop a new strategy…

…that will best equip our churches to move the mission forward in new ways. If we keep running the same plays we’ve always run, we can’t expect our churches to do anything differently.

  • Invest in digital resources.

Online ministry is here to stay and not simply a band-aid to get past this crisis. The reality is our mission field, those we’re hoping to reach, have been online for the past 12-15 years and we’ve been slow to meet them there. Equip churches to have a thriving, online experience that helps people take steps 24/7. This is the front door to the ministry. Encourage churches to think of their online engagement as an integrated, strategic engine of the ministry rather than a temporary, band-aided step child.

  • Rethink discipleship.

Equip churches to help move someone from an online view to a fully devoted follower of Christ…. All online. If someone never steps foot in a church building, assume and build paths that will help them take steps toward Jesus with new technology, teams and resources.

  • Leverage centralized services.

As church budgets are shrinking, look for ways to expand the tools and systems that can scale to help the region manage with less resources. This could extend to smaller and rural churches to include centralized teaching, online discipleship content and training lay leaders for a greater role. What would have been culturally difficult in the past may be possible today.

  • Work proactively, not reactively.

It started with the shutdown, how do we scramble and make everything available online? We’re getting there with varying success or in most cases, trying to improve. Post-Easter, we’re staring at the “now what” stage with news of areas opening up in small fashion. The temptation will be to focus all attention to how to open up our physical locations. Do we need masks? What does children’s ministry look like? How will we greet people? While these will be tactical questions and needs, as leaders we need to be able to skip forward and work on, how do we need to completely rethink our structure, resources and effectively carry out the mission with new strategies for the future?

Most of the churches in your region will want to go back to what was and won’t find it to be the same. How will we move them forward to what needs to be?

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