Right now may be the best time to lead, minister, worship and fellowship in a healthy small church.
At the start of this pandemic, small churches were at a disadvantage. Many of us didn’t have a live stream option for our church services. Some of us (like the church I serve) had just a few days’ notice to move everything online, including how to shoot it, what platform to put it on, and how to help church members know where to find it.
This was much easier for our friends in bigger churches, most of whom already had an online option.
Gathering Smaller And Safer
Now, as we’re hopefully coming to the end of this challenging season (and into other post-pandemic challenges that I’ll be writing about as we approach them) small congregations have an advantage because of our smaller size.
In many cases, small churches will be able to gather in person far more quickly and easily than many of our big church counterparts.
Because of our size, it will likely be easier for us to provide the safety measures needed for proper physical distancing, clean facilities and other issues that will be needed to gather safely in person again.
Gathering Smaller For Connection
Also, there may be a lot more people than usual who are looking for a healthy small church setting where they can receive the kind of personal experience they’ve missed out on for so many months.
We’ve already experienced it in our church as people are coming back to the church for the first time in a long time (or the first time ever). They’re seeing the need for spiritual, emotional and relational connections more than they’ve ever felt before.
This may be a short moment in time when people in our communities are willing to give smaller congregations a more serious consideration than they have in the past. Let’s make the most of it.
So, how can we capitalize on this potential small church moment so it doesn’t pass us by? (No, not to steal from our big-church friends, but to serve as many people as possible. Churches of every size are our partners, not our competition.)
How can we be sure not to let anyone slip through who is feeling the need for the kind of connectedness that healthy small churches can and should be really good at providing?
Here are five aspects to be especially watchful of:
1. Provide Stability
This has been a season of huge disruption. And will continue to be very disruptive for some time to come.
Nothing provides more stability for people than hearing and living the truth of God’s Word within a healthy community of Christ-followers.
2. Connect Regularly
On a recent Sunday, I encouraged our congregation to look around the room and take notice of those they hadn’t seen in a while, or who they knew were hurting and needed a word of hope and comfort.
I didn’t send them out as professional counselors or church recruiters. Just to be a friend.
Even after all the restrictions are lifted, there will be many months, even years of people feeling new levels of unexpected stress, trauma and confusion.
Because of this, even those who might have been regular attenders before might find it hard to come back. They might be wanting to return, but not able to feel comfortable to do so.
A regular “how have you been?” call from a friend can help in this.
Even if they’re not ready to come through the doors yet, that’s something we need to work with. Gathering as the church is vitally important but, as I referenced in my recent article, (“Will The Congregation Come Back?” Should Not Be Our Biggest Concern) the goal isn’t to get them back into the church building. It’s to help hurting people no matter where they are – or where they choose to stay.
3. Live Generously
After the pandemic lifts, there is likely to be another massive epidemic coming. This time it will be financial hardships, along with mental, emotional and relational crises.
Our goal as church leaders must be to relieve those burdens, not add to them.
We can’t help people heal by focusing just on our church’s needs. We have to make sure the church is giving back to the community in Jesus’ name.
4. Respond Calmly
There’s a lot of anger right now. Some deserved, some stoked by opportunists.
The last thing people in crisis need is another angry voice yelling at them – or over them.
As I wrote in The Church Recovery Guide, “When times are normal, leaders inspire change. When times are disruptive, leaders provide stability.”
Now is the time for stability.
5. Work Collaboratively
This is a time for churches to work together, not to compete.
- Big and small churches alike
- Denominations, movements, and independents
- High and low liturgy
- Firm believers, doubters, even skeptics
Nothing drowns out division and skepticism like serving others together.
(Photo by @bakutroo | Unsplash)