Don’t Make These 8 Reopening Mistakes

Don’t Make These 8 Reopening Mistakes

Every pastor is thinking about the future. Every pastor is considering what reopening will look like. With each thought comes countless questions. 

When we will re-open? How will we re-open? Will people come back? Will our church ever look the same? 

And the truth is that no one really knows the answers. While that may not sound reassuring, know that you are not alone, and everyone is in a constant state of adjusting and adapting.

As our team has talked to pastors across the country, we’ve noticed a few crucial differences between the churches that are forming solid plans and the churches whose plans are falling apart. 

As you continue to formulate the next steps for this next phase, make sure that you avoid these 8 reopening mistakes.

#1 – Thinking everyone is going to come back.  

Re-opening will be too late for some and too early for others.

Churches are reporting anywhere from 25% to 60% of previous attendance. It’s safe to assume that you will have a sizable amount of people who won’t be comfortable returning to an in-person experience, no matter the measures you put in place.

“Remember it’s summer. People are scared and just cause they didn’t come on Sunday doesn’t mean you are a failure.” – Jarad Houser, Senior Pastor, Shorewood Church of God

#2 – Not listening to your people.  

The best way to understand the needs of your church is to understand the needs of your people. Want to know if they’ll return? Ask them. Want to know what will make them feel safe? Ask them.

The opinions of one loud person are not always reflective of the congregation or community.  Don’t fall into “some guy syndrome,” where some guy said something, and assume it’s a shared majority opinion. 

Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit, your team, and the whole church.

You won’t get unanimous answers, but you’ll gain an understanding of the majority. 

Return to Church Check-In from Gloo is a helpful (free) resource that does all the work for you. 

#3 – Not recruiting new volunteers.  

Recruiting new volunteers may not seem like an obvious strategy. If you expect to have members not return to an in-person service, you should also expect to have volunteers not volunteer at an in-person service.  

Reassign volunteers from other ministries that may not be operating at their full capacity (or at all) and recruit new volunteers to fill the gap.

#4 – Failing to develop a comprehensive communication plan.  

Solid plans have to include a clear communication plan, and this includes contingencies. One of our church fuel members made a list of 3 things to consider:

  1. Known knowns: Things that we do know are happening and how things are going to be around our church moving forward.
  2. Known Unknowns:  Things we know we need to learn more about.  It's not 100% clear, but we are working on trying to understand it.
  3. Unknown Unknowns:  Things that might happen, but we don't know.  Things that we haven't even considered.  Things that could happen that would change how we do something pretty fast.

#5 – Leaving behind your online audience.  

People have formed new habits and new expectations that are not going away just because places are opening up. This is the new blended.  

Even if we open our physical doors, we cannot close our digital ones.  Keep creating content for your online church. This is an opportunity to continue to reach people, no matter where they live.

#6 – Not having a contingency plan.  

No one knows what next week will look like, let alone the next several months.

We have to be prepared for all scenarios and adjust our expectations to adapt to each one. If re-opening is your next step, make sure you don’t place all your eggs in this basket.

There are a lot of unknowns but not being prepared is a difficult blow.  Consider what your plan is if/when a member tests positive. Who will be responsible for contact tracing? What if a volunteer tests positive? What will your messaging be? How will your services change in those scenarios? 

You’ll likely have to answer these questions eventually.  Asking them now will help prevent panic, and perhaps lead to different decisions as you decide what reopening will look like.

#7 – Forgetting your own needs.

Not only are you having to manage the needs and health of yourself and your family, but you’re also managing the needs and health of your church. That can be a lot of weight to carry, and making sure that you are taking care of yourself can not be understated.

Connect with God. Connect with friends. Create healthy systems to manage the rest. 

#8 – Being defensive or judgmental.  

Every church and every member will have their own choices and their own reasons. Your job is not to decide for them, or unnecessarily emulate them. Your job is to lead your church. The church down the street or across the country doesn’t know your people like you do, nor do you know theirs.. Be confident in your leadership, and what wisdom and love look like for you and your people. And leave it at that.

For more resources, check out our REBOUND course. It’s designed to help your church bounce back and move forward.

Take the Next Step

The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Reopening is a free ebook that helps church leaders ask the right questions and make a wise, strategic decision about reopening for in-person services. It includes examples from real churches, practical tips for creating plans, and important safety, sanitation, and communication topics to consider.

Free Download

The Senior Pastor's Guide to Reopening
 

3 Unique Ways to Engage Your Church In Generosity

3 Unique Ways to Engage Your Church In Generosity

According to our Weekly Pastor Poll, 40% of churches have reported a decline in giving since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

While we rely on generosity to balance the budget, it’s important to remember the generosity is also an important part of spiritual formation. Abraham was blessed to be a blessing, and that calling falls on the shoulders of all of us. We are a conduit of God’s blessing. 

But unlike acts of service like volunteering or making a meal for someone in need, generosity often strikes a different tone and carries its own unique baggage. Which makes engaging our members in generosity an act that requires thought, tact, and intentionality.

Services will continue to look different, even as we start re-opening. So how are other churches engaging their members around generosity? Let’s take a look at the three great examples we found.

Generosity Prayer

Remind your church that generosity is spiritual. The Village Church recites this Generosity Prayer at each of their services as a continual reminder that everything we have does not belong to us. 

Holy Father, there is nothing we have that You have not given us.

All we have and all we are belong to You, bought with the blood of Jesus.

To spend selfishly and to give without sacrifice

is the way of the world,

but generosity is the way of those who call Christ their Lord.

So, help us to increase in generosity

until it can be said that there is no needy person among us.

Help us to be trustworthy with such a little thing as money

that You may trust us with true riches.

Above all, help us to be generous

because You, Father, are generous.

May we show what You are like to all the world.

Best Practice #1: Framing generosity as a vehicle for spiritual growth not only helps remove the baggage associated with generosity, but serves as a reminder that being generous doesn’t just help our community, but it also helps us.

Outreach Updates

Liquid Church posted this Outreach Update to communicate to their members how their giving supports their outreach ministries. 

The Special Olympics is a partner of Liquid Church, and their members provided both volunteer and financial support for a local event in New Jersey. Liquid Church shot a video of the Special Olympics video director saying “Thank You” for their generosity and sharing the effect it has had on the organization.

Sharing stories and outcomes is often more effective than just asking people to give.

Don’t just ask, inspire.

Best Practice #2: Transparency matters. When you share specific updates about how your member’s generosity isn’t just going to your church but through your church, you create a clear flow of finances that communicates a culture of transparency, which in turn builds trust.

An Exclusive Club

Bobby Williams at the Ridge Church sent this email to the 29% of people that gave more than 4 times in the past year to tell them they are a part of the “29 club”. While the club doesn’t actually exist, it reminds members that regular givers are not the norm, their generosity is important, and their giving is a habit worth keeping. 

Best Practice #3: As we talked about in our article on The 5 Money Shifts Every Church Should Make, the very first thing you should do if you want more people to engage in giving to your church is develop a robust strategy of care for your existing donors.

Regularly acknowledge and encourage your members who are faithfully giving. When a football player makes a touchdown, the crowd cheers him on. We all need to be cheered on from time to time, especially when we’re actively pushing against cultural norms and practicing spiritual disciplines. 

A part of that strategy needs to include communicating fiscal responsibility, corporate generosity, and your church’s recurring giving. 

On a recent webinar for our Rebound Course, we talked in depth about what these look like, why they matter, and how to implement them.

The strategy of communicating generosity, and the motivations behind generosity, continues to shift with time and with culture. That constant change will never go away, so be intentional about focusing on what is effective now, and not just what you’ve always done. 

Whether you’re sending encouraging emails, creating opportunities to practice generosity, or sharing stories, keep generosity as a major narrative in your church to create a culture of generosity.

7 Crucial Messages for Social Media

7 Crucial Messages for Social Media

Social Media is one of the best tools we have to continue ministry outside of the hour on Sunday. All the time is a great time to spread the gospel of love and hope, but  people are listening now more than ever.

Social media doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be relational. 

It is vital that we are active on our social media accounts. Post in the feed, go live, share stories, ask questions, and comment on other people’s posts. 

Consider the emotional ramifications of social distancing. We’re asking people to isolate themselves and stay home. How can we work against the effects of loneliness, boredom, stress, anxiety, or hopelessness? 

We can help by being present. We can help by sharing information that isn’t based in fear, but based in hope. 

7 Crucial Examples of Social Media Messaging

Mile City Church has a scheduled guided prayer time every morning at 7am for their church members to join.

Brownsbridge Church highlighted a local need

Life Church is posting messages of hope.

Perimeter Church  is opening up Instagram for prayer requests

Buckhead Church is producing a podcast to lead us through uncertainty.

Zionsville United Methodist Church created a Facebook Group with scheduled daily devotions.

Crossroads Church is going live with worship on their Facebook page.

Simple Tips for Using Email During the COVID-19 Crisis

Simple Tips for Using Email During the COVID-19 Crisis

Even though most communications professionals talk about social media, email is the still the best way to communicate with your congregation, particularly during times of crisis.

Any communications strategy should certainly include social media, but you might not want to rely solely on it.  Email, even though it can be boring, can also your best opportunity to share your message.

5 Reasons Email Works

  • It gives you more space to expand your thoughts, share important information, and tell stories.
  • You can include multiple links.
  • It doesn’t disappear from feeds quite so easily.
  • People can easily save.
  • It’s easy to forward and share.

Even as you look to communicate instantly on social media, don’t forget that email is one of your most useful tools during this time.

On the first Sunday of digital services, one of the largest churches in the country closed the online service with this encouragement:  “If you’re not on our email list, make sure you go to our website and give us your email address…it’s how we can stay in touch and share important updates with your family.”

Here is one of the nation’s largest churches, with more resources and creativity than most, encouraging viewers to sign up for email updates.  They know email is one of the most effective communication methods.

Times of uncertainty are not the best times to experiment with new communications platforms and mediums.  Instead, you want to rely on approaches that are familiar to your congregation.

Email Tools

If you use a Church Management System like Planning Center, Church Community Builder, Realm or one of the many providers, you have the ability to email your congregation. 

Keeping this database accurate and up-to-date is an important responsibility as your email database will be a primary source of communication.

In some cases, you can connect your database to a third party software like Mailchimp, MailerLite or Convert.  Email lists like this give you the ability to create quick sign up forms and will help you understand who is opening your emails.

Here are some email marketing companies that do a great job.

Email Style

When you create your email updates, know that you don’t have to use a ton of graphics, templates, or fancy style. 

Think about the emails that hit your Inbox. You immediately think the ones with a bunch of graphics and formatting are from companies selling something. The messages from a real person with mostly words feel more like a personal message.

Here are some other tips for crafting email messages to your congregation.

  1. Write like a person. When you’re crafting your emails, write like a regular human being, using regular words and phrasing.  You’re not writing a dissertation or a government report…keep it personal.  
  1. Send church emails from a person. Don’t use admin@churchname.com or worse, noreply@churchname.org as your sender. These emails are more likely to go to the spam folder.
  1. Write to a person. Just like you should write like a real person, imagine you’re writing to a real person (not a group of people). 

Great Examples of Email Messaging

Check out the insanely practical ways that churches have announced major changes via email. (What about you? Find and share more ideas online at covid.church)

Permission to Stay Home, Andy Stanley.  This email went out the week before services were cancelled. 

COVID 19 Update, Andy Stanley.  This email announced the move to digital and gave three reasons. https://cfresourcelibrary.s3.amazonaws.com/eBooks/COVID19/Emails/North+Point+COVID19+Update.pdf

No Services This Sunday, Dan Sweaza.  Great email announcing the change and answering questions.

A Pandemic Is A Terrible Thing To Waste, Andy Stanley. Connected people to their livestream, and encouraged people to invite their friends.

Are You Remotely Prepared?, App Sumo. Practical life advice laid out in a way that is helpful, informative, and high value.

A Note To Our Community, Fab Fit Fun. A message of hope that continues their company’s mission statement of bringing “happiness and well-being to your doorstep”.

How To Help…A Note of Encouragement, Light & Airy. With the mission of helping people find & capture the magic in the everyday, they took an empathetic and practical approach to how you can of things you can do to help others and ways to find joy or be productive when you’re at home. Practical value add with a message of hope and help.

Cancelling Easter, Restoration Presbyterian Church.

How to Build an Email List for Your Community

Building an email list can be super simple or complex depending on the amount of emails and the methods you use to go about getting them.

Here are some ideas to start building an email list:

  • Capture people's addresses from inside and outside your church: Add an opt-in form to your website.  Opt-in Monster is a powerful and popular tool for lead generation.
  • Create resources that would be helpful to your community and give them away for free on your website. It could be resources for parents and kids, devotional guides, or community-driven news. Ask for an email address in return.  
  • Ask for people to subscribe to your emails at the end of your message. Give them an email address to “opt-in” to, use a service like text-in-church and give them a phone number, or create an online form for them to fill out after service.

This is a great opportunity to share messages of hope, helpful information, and ways to be like Jesus throughout the week. How are you using email to love others and point them towards Jesus? Share your story in the comments below.

Optimizing Your Website During the COVID-19 Crisis

Optimizing Your Website During the COVID-19 Crisis

As a church, you want to be a source of peace, hope, and stability in uncertain times. As preachers, teachers, and gospel-believing church leaders, we know the power of words. Now more than ever, people in our congregations and communities need a word of encouragement and clarity, without downplaying or dismissing the seriousness and complexity of the situation. 

We simply aren’t experts when it comes to handling a health crisis… no matter how many podcasts, articles, posts, or tweets we’ve been exposed to. 

We are, however, called by God and empowered by His Spirit to lead our churches in love for the glory of Jesus’ name.

Be sure that words and tone of church communication relay a message of unwavering hope and unselfish love. You love your community and the church wants to take necessary precautions to promote the wellbeing of everyone in your zipcode and beyond. 

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:23–25

Your home page is the front door to your church. 

Today’s best practices emphasize the power of first impression and ease of finding relevant information on your website. If that’s right under normal circumstances, the importance of that fact just grew exponentially in size. Right now, just about any site you visit has COVID-19 information front and center. 

This should especially be the case for churches—a place for gathering and for seeking help and hope in tough times. Provide a clear message and plan for how you will communicate and meet, along with how people can get in touch with you too.

Update your landing page to share the most important and urgent information. This is an opportunity to be informative and connective.

Review your analytics to see what people are looking for by noticing what pages they’re visiting. Most likely they are searching for service information and resources

Kem Meyer recently shared a great strategy for how to handle your landing page:

  • Create an interim landing page.

None of the “usual” stuff matters right now. Get rid of unnecessary events and content.

  • Answer two questions: 
  1. What is your simple response to COVID? 
  2. How are you retooling your people and your resources to help others?  

Also consider making one of your main CTA’s prayers. Add it to the copy of your page, or as a menu item. Tools like YouVersion’s new Prayer app can help your church pray together, even if you can’t meet together.

Examples of Website Messaging

Check out the insanely practical ways that churches are using their websites. 

Look at how The Action Church has positioned themselves as a source of information: 

  • Include a list of COVID-19 community action resources 
  • Add service information on the landing page. Whether it’s a “watch live” button, or a link to another page detailing service information, you need to make the information that people are looking for insanely easy to find.

Check out Elevations Call To Action: https://elevationchurch.org/

You can expect that you’ll have a lot of new visitors on your website. A church in Virginia noted that of their recent website visitors, 93% of them were brand new. Make sure that you’re prepared to capture their attention and information so you can connect with them.

Just remember: Keep it simple, keep it brief, keep it real, keep it helpful.