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People aren’t offended by Christ. They’re offended by Christians.
Too often, it’s Christians offending fellow Christians within your church, feeding into the self-segregating nature of modern Christianity when it’s left on auto-pilot. People in the church aren’t just drifting their gaze inward, but they’re creating their own little subdivisions and cliques within the church walls.
One group prefers contemporary worship music while another only wants to worship with traditional hymns, so you start doing two different services in order to steady the waters.
Using separation as a band-aid instead of unity as a salve.
One generation wants to keep doing small groups on Zoom while the other is itching to meet in person, so you silently allow both to continue on.
Yet again, using separation as a band-aid instead of unity as a salve.
Before this past year, church leaders have been able to keep the quiet rumblings of disunity among your own congregation at bay… And then 2020 made things more divisive, more binary, more confrontational, and more political than ever.
People built the walls that separated neighbor from neighbor even higher and made them even thicker. Gossip became malice and tension became explosive both outside and inside the church.
Whether you were a part of the wall building or misspeaking is beside the point. We all watched it happen throughout the year.
So, how can you rebuild unity in your church after a year like 2020?
It is entirely possible to do so. It’s going to take grit and grace from you as a leader but is possible.
To “reunite” your church in 2020, you need to unify everyone around a common purpose.
For each individual to turn their eyes from inward to outward, beyond themselves and their preferences, lead your church in fixing its collective eyes outward.
Not in a traditional, “there are people out there who need our help and need our Savior,” way, but in actionable ways that bring our Savior to the very people who are currently not a part of your church or God’s kingdom at all.
Give people the opportunity to show the surrounding community who Christ is—together. Create the space for members of your church to come out from behind flagrant Facebook posts, to disassemble the walls of division, link arms, and look outward as one unified body.
Leading your church to adopt an outsider-first approach is a great step toward rebuilding unity. It looks different in all churches, but for your church, it could mean…
In 2021, rebuilding unity in your church is not about growing your church. If it grows in the process, that’s a great benefit. But rebuilding unity is about leading your church in becoming more like Christ.
Become the church known for being unified and seeking unity in 2021.
Become a church where the people who are already in attendance come together as one and first-time visitors feel welcomed enough to join in. Be one body with many beautiful members, not a fractured group.
Romans 8:14-15 reminds us that “All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children.”
God’s sons and daughters.
Adopted as His children.
Siblings bicker and fight from time to time. Relationships are messy no matter how similar or dissimilar our blood is to one another. But being a family, being sons and daughters, demands that we lay aside our preferences, and choose to stand united.
Try leading your church in treating outsiders like family and they’ll start treating each other like family along the way.
For help creating a comprehensive and strategic approach to creating unity among your colleagues, your congregation, and your community, check out the FOR Starter Kit.
The FOR Starter Kit gives you a complete roadmap to truly impacting your congregation and ultimately the community, and creating unity across the board. Don’t just throw ideas and vision at the wall and pray something sticks. Get the FOR Starter Kit and let it be your guide to building unity within your church and in your surrounding community.
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.
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.
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.
Most of us can't leave our homes. We're not allowed to visit friends, go to school, even going to park has it's restrictions. A lot has changed, is still changing, and it's not always easy to process why. Especially when you're a kid.
How can we as a church show up?
We need to step away, for a moment, and consider the bigger picture. Our relationship with Jesus, and being a part of the church, isn't intended to squeeze inside an hour on Sunday. So our content and our resources shouldn't either.
Consider taking your content and spreading it throughout the week. You don't have to eliminate your family experience on the weekends, but give families the ideas and resources to integrate their faith throughout the week too.
Just like you’re taking adult services online, pre-elementary and elementary aged children can also have online experiences. You can take pieces of your lessons, and make them digital. Tell a story, sing a song, it doesn't have to be done perfectly.
If you're not a large church with a video team and the ability to mass produce professional online experiences, we have great news. YOU DON'T HAVE TO. You probably know the names of each of the kids in your ministry, you can facetime them (with parents permission of course). You can hold a zoom call for everyone at once, and connect with them as one group. You can write letters back and forth. Kids love snail mail! Don't feel like you have to put all your eggs in the online experience, there are so many ways to continue the purpose of your ministry.
If you do want an online experience without having to make one yourself, the LifeKids team from LifeChurch is creating full-length video services that include interactive elements, pauses, and worship that can be streamed online. (These experiences will be relevant for children from ages two through six grade.)
These videos have no Life.Church branding and use license-free music. CLICK HERE for LifeKids resources.
We need to shift our focus from re-creating the weekend experience (which so much consists of interacting with other same-age kids) and resourcing parents to include their kids.
Consider creating a Facebook group for your kids ministry to post videos, share updates, and ask questions.
One of the biggest ways you can show up with your families is by providing practical and useful resources for parents.
So many parents are trying to balance working from home, being a teacher, and being a parent. It’s really tough.
Step into their world by becoming a trusted source for quality and helpful information. Ask your parents what they need and either find or create resources to help them during this time. Take the time you would spend preparing rooms or creating lessons and funnel that energy toward resourcing parents.
Here are some ideas of things you can do to resource and equip them through the week:
When the news about COVID-19 began influencing large gatherings, all churches scrambled to figure out what to do when they couldn’t gather in person on Sunday.
That realization quickly extended to other ministries too. We need to consider how we can continue not just our adults services, but also our students. And we need to create new opportunities for students to stay connected.
Students' lives have been significantly affected during this time – nearly every environment in their lives has been disrupted. School, friends, work, and church are all completely different than they were a few weeks ago. If this is tough for you as an adult, it is exponentially more difficult for a teenager.
It’s important to provide a sense of normalcy.
Here’s Kenny Cambpell, co-founder of Stuff You Can Use: A Youth Ministry Community…
To be honest, “adult” church is actually way ahead of kids/student ministry when it comes to live streaming. 99.9% of youth ministries haven’t started live streaming until this week whereas adults have been doing it for years.
Kids/youth ministry online is new. There’s some people like Tj McConahay who have been killing it on social media (TJ specifically is great with TikTok), but those are more like bonus material. Doing kids/youth ministry 100% remote is new territory.
But we’ll be keeping our eyes open and paying attention to what people are doing in the Stuff You Can Use Facebook groups, and sharing all the new ideas that will be popping up in the coming weeks.
Check out the insanely practical ways that churches are using technology for student ministry.
Most of the livestreaming advice that applies to church services will also apply to your student ministry. But there are a few student-specific pointers that will help you serve students better.
Other live streaming options for students include…
If your student ministry has small groups, it’s not a huge jump to shift them online meeting using a tool like Zoom.
It’s one of the more popular video call solutions and has been helping people work remotely for years. But it’s also a great tool for online small groups.
Right now, they are extending their free trial, essentially removing their 40-minute limit. One of the cool features of Zoom is breakout rooms. You could have a large group teaching time and then split students up into their respective small groups.
Relationships, more than programming, have always been the driving force behind student ministry. As great as it is to provide an online service or digital gathering, it might be more important to stay connected throughout the week. This just might be one place where student ministry is ahead of adult ministry.
Brian Lawson shares some great ideas….
GroupMe is a great way to stay connected to students outside of events, even during times when you can gather. Many students already use this for school, sports, or church.
Cameron Pedicord and Jonathan McKee have some great ideas for how you can help students grow spiritually and stay connected during this time.
Here are some good ones:
More than ever, students need caring adults to lean in and facilitate connections. Students already live their lives digitally, but this is a new opportunity for the church, and a new opportunity for your ministry.
Whether you’re a social media aficionado, or just your everyday feed-scroller, by now you know that social media influences today’s world significantly. The Church can engage culture like never before through social media, as messages of Gospel hope can be shared on a global scale with the click of a button. In this post, we’re sharing 9 social media post ideas for churches to engage the culture around you. Safe for Instagram and Twitter feeds alike, these crafty ideas make engaging your church community on social media fun and effective.
Highlighting local shops and eateries is a great way to support your community and nudge your congregation into social spaces! Check out this example from Gwinnett Church, with their #ForGwinnett.
Consider updating your first time guest gift by including a thoughtful list of places and events where your congregation loves to, well… congregate! This is information is helpful for new people and also for your regular attenders. If you know where/how your church spends their time, you can more effectively plan community events to strengthen your church’s culture of community.
Invest in relationships of every stage with this fun-loving take on date night. To share this on Instagram, simply select 3-5 questions to paste into your church’s Instagram story highlights.
A staycation is a vacation, but taken where you currently stay. It’s taking a drive downtown and booking an Airbnb or staying at that cute new hotel near the river. Wherever you stay, it’s a low-maintenance, flight-of-fancy kind of vibe. You can encourage your marrieds to do this quarterly with a church wide “staycation” reminder via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Letting parents know what’s available this summer for their kids is a great way to engage them, and their little ones. The summer calendar from Compass Bible Church does just that. Check out this sweet post that highlights what’s going on, and where to register.
Who doesn’t love a glittery sky? You can head to google for a quick search on which fireworks are most popularly used in your town’s show and then head to social to share what to look for.
An easy win for parents on a budget. Another google search will show you which restaurants in your area cater to kiddos. Be on the lookout for establishments with their own social sites – you’ll be able to retweet or repost and let your people know where to go!
For your physically active attenders, a curated list of the best views in town will provide a great weekend of exploration. Just choose your social platform and share!
Direct your church’s worship towards the true meaning of Christmas by digitizing your advent guide! Grab inspiration from this post by The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas.
Everything you believe about student ministry isn't true.
This isn’t completely your fault.
It’s easy for myths to work their way into what we believe.
Over the years, a variety of student ministry myths have taken hold.
Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:
If you believe these myths, hold on for a moment.
These ideas may work for some churches in the short-term. But these ideas tend not to create lasting results. Besides, it’s nearly impossible for your church to compete with the entertainment industry. No one has enough money for that.
Now that we have that out of the way, it’s natural to think:
What in the world works in reaching students with the gospel today?
Thankfully, what works isn’t earth-shattering, and it won’t cost your church a ton of money.
According to research conducted by The Barna Group, there are two really simple ideas your church should focus on to reach and retain students:
Practically speaking, there are many different ways your church can implement these two principles in your student ministry. Let’s take a look at five ways you can put these ideas into practice.
Student ministry can play a big role in sharing the gospel with students.
In fact, according to a different study by The Barna Group, the majority of Christians in the United States commit their life to Jesus before they turn 18. Here’s what they found:
The current Barna study indicates that nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%) and that two out of three born-again Christians (64%) made a commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday.
Did you catch that?
The majority of self-identified born-again Christians (64 percent) in the United States placed their faith in Jesus Christ before they turned 18. This means that students between the ages of 13–18 are a prime field to share the gospel.
Before you turn your student ministry into a full-blown evangelistic outreach, hold on.
Unlike your college ministry, your student ministry should possess a two-pronged approach:
Support parents and guardians
We address the first point mentioned above elsewhere, and you can read our thoughts here.
In short, don’t eject parents and guardians from your student ministry, and find ways you can include your church-wide family into the lives of students (more on this in a bit).
With that in mind, as a student leader, you still want to take the gospel to students.
(Keyword is take.)
Many students will be attracted to your student ministry for different reasons, and will attend when a friend invites them or when their family attends your worship services. But at the end of the day, you and your church must also go to students. Let’s dig into what that looks like.
The first place to reach students are schools.
This doesn’t mean you can walk into any school willy-nilly and start a Bible study. That won’t work at all.
To be present at schools, you’ll have to build a relationship with teachers and administrative staff. This isn’t a process you can rush, and keep in mind one thing:
Many schools are under-resourced (in terms of staff and money), and they’ll likely be open to practical support from your church.
Think of practical ways you can be an encouragement and provide tangible support for schools. From providing lunches or coffee to offering your facilities for events, identify ways you can show some love and build relationships.
In time, through your presence, through students from your church in the school, and through connections with parents and guardians, you’ll be able to create awareness for your student ministry.
You’ve reached new students.
You’ve made a ton of new connections.
And now they’ve attended your weekly gathering or event.
So what’s the next step you want them to take?
If you don’t know the answer to this question, then everything you do to reach students will be a bust because you don’t have a practical way to retain them.
Here’s the deal:
Engaging new students who attend whatever you organized sets the stage for the remainder of their experience. If you make it easy for them to take a meaningful next step with your ministry, you’re in a much better position to share the gospel and get them plugged into your church. Miss following up or providing them with a tangible next step, and you run the risk of losing them.
The next steps you provide can vary. But remember, the two things you need to focus on is building relationships and making disciples.
Next, we’ll look at a few ways churches are finding success in accomplishing these goals.
At first, there are two next steps you want to encourage students to take:
Does your church currently run a student ministry?
Then there’s a good chance you’re already running a weekly meeting.
Planning on launching a student ministry?
Then consider organizing a weekly meeting for your students.
For your weekly meeting, it’s ideal if it's something Christian and non-Christian students can attend. Depending upon your church, this idea may make some parents or guardians uncomfortable. So be prepared to cast a vision your church members can get behind, and be ready if some families don’t catch the vision.
In reaching students, this is the first step they will take in getting connected with your student ministry. A weekly meeting requires little commitment; it’s a great opportunity to experience your student ministry; and students will have an opportunity to hear the gospel and meet other students and members of your church.
After leading students to attend your weekly meeting, another step churches have found helpful is to provide small groups.
Providing small groups for your students is one way you can lead people from a weekly (larger group) meeting to a small setting where they can meet people one-on-one and study the Bible together.
A student ministry small group does two really big things:
Both of these ideas are key to building relationships with students and making disciples. Basically, the more people students meet throughout your entire church—the better.
Want to make your student ministry stick?
Get students to stay around by encouraging them to volunteer.
When talking about volunteering, I’m not necessarily talking about leading other students or your children’s ministry, and I’m not talking about cleaning up after your service either. There are many roles students can fill that require more than being a warm body in a pew.
For example, students can volunteer in strategic positions, like:
In your student ministry, encourage students to get involved in your church. There’s no need for them to sit on their hands when they can use them to serve.
That’s not all.
There’s another way you can encourage students to serve:
Through domestic and international mission trips.
Mission trips—even if they’re domestic—are a great way to give students a taste of serving. A mission trip is a short-term commitment that can be a long-term influence in students’ lives for Christ.
I hope this truth brings a breath of fresh air:
Creating an exciting, powerful, and world-changing student ministry doesn’t require a multi-million dollar budget—it primarily requires building relationships and making disciples. In your church, how this looks will be different based upon your location, demographics, budget, and staff or volunteers. When praying through how to reach and retain students, use these principles and ideas I shared above. But be open to doing whatever it takes to build relationships and help students to follow Jesus.