2020 is here and if you attended a religious community this weekend, you have perfect attendance for the year. Congratulations! A new year brings new opportunity and a chance to reset our priorities and practices. Church folks are busy taking down the Advent and Christmas decorations and thinking about what 2020 might hold. Many are looking ahead with trepidation with a dash of fear thrown in for good measure. Churches are struggling to solve the puzzles of declining attendance, declining resources, and loss of influence in many communities. This is also a Presidential election year which should be, at best, continuous, and at worst… well. We are worried about the direction of our country and our local communities, especially those for whom life places in vulnerable situations. In the midst of all of this, what can the church resolve to do and be in 2020? Here are five ideas
Do What You Do and Do It Well
The conversations happen in board and staff meetings of churches all over the country- “X church up the street is growing like crazy. We need to be like them in order to grow.” Most communities have the megachurch or two where seemingly everyone, especially under the age of 40, attends. While this is typically perception more than reality, there are fast-growing large churches in many places. However, your church is not going to grow or have a meaningful ministry by trying to be a cheap imitation of any other church. They do what they do well. Often, they do very few things, but do they If you don’t already know, discern what it is your church does well and do those things. It’s why people already there love your church and why those who are coming in the future will love your church.
Help People Tell the Church’s Story
Why are people involved in your church? I believe church membership is going away, to be replaced by something more akin to attachment and involvement in a particular faith community. I mean, how many non-members do you have that are way more involved than people who have “been on the books” for twenty years?
I always ask people, “why are you a part of this church?” Yes, I am curious, but it also gives them a chance to tell their story about why they love this church. It closes the gap in why leaders think people attend their church and why they actually attend. In this election year, many are going to make assumptions about how people of faith think and believe. You don’t want people forming opinions about your church based on the words of the (insert name here) that’s on cable news. Help people claim their story and teach them to tell the story of the church as they know it.
Think Differently When It Comes to Numbers
A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a member of a church who averaged around 70 people in worship. He was lamenting the decline of worship attendance while also asking how they could get the 200 people they served each week through their clothes closet and food pantry into worship. He was missing the important ministry the church was doing by only focusing on worship attendance.
I’m not saying we should not pay attention to worship attendance, but it’s also not the only thing to which we need to pay attention. I’m willing to bet that between the food pantry and clothes closet, that church was making a bigger difference in the community than many other religious communities. Can’t we track how engaged people are in studies and classes? Can’t we track how many volunteer hours our church folks work in the community? What about tracking the number of people we serve in the community?
Throw Open Your Doors… and your Meetings…and your Leadership
Go to most any church website these days and you will find the words “You Are Welcome.” The thing many churches don’t say is “you are welcome so that we may fix you. Some churches welcome people from all sexual orientations, racial backgrounds, economic backgrounds, family situations, etc. but are hesitant or downright against giving ALL people full involvement in the life and leadership of the church. The church is missing some of the most gifted folks in the world who have voices that need to be heard and heeded. Plus, we are not living up to the Gospel when we exclude…even when our exclusion is carefully disguised as inclusion.
Church needs to be more fun! Seriously… our reason for gathering is to live out the Good News and if that’s not a reason for celebration, I don’t know what would be. There is a season for everything in life and in the life of the church. Celebration is one of those seasons. A spirit of joy is present when we celebrate the good we have done and the love and grace we have offered. It’s a perfect response to all we receive from God.
Blessings on your 2020… and buckle up for the ride.