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Today, Jaime Hlavin writes a post on a subject nearly every church in America is dealing with: How do we move forward in light of the huge organizational (and personal) losses we’ve experienced during the past 18 months? Enjoy ~ John

During those early weeks and months of the pandemic, it was popular to post memes and images on social media regarding what it would be like when the doors of our houses of worship opened up again. Most of those images include raucous dancing and revelry. The thought was that everyone would come rushing back the first moment they could. But that moment came and went. Weeks and months came and went. The mad rush we had all expected was more like a trickling faucet. And eventually the trickling stopped altogether.

2020 generated some huge challenges for churches and Christ followers to navigate. COVID, political tension, government mandates, cultural and racial tensions placed many of us in scenarios we’d never encountered before. The word of the year was “unprecedented.” And both the world and the Church proved they didn’t know how to weather those storms as complicated and nuanced situations cause us to argue, fight, struggle, and condescend our way, for the most part, through the better part of the past 18 months. And as the dust continues to settle, we are watching to see who and what is left.

Many pastors and leaders were/are holding out hope that their people will come back—that they’re just waiting for the right moment—for church to feel “safe” enough, “free” enough, “normal” enough. And then they’ll bounce back to pre-COVID church.

However, I think as leaders and pastors, we need to come to terms with the fact that a significant number of those people probably aren’t coming back. They’ve decided to stay online. Or they realized during this time, that the church they once considered home doesn’t feel like home anymore and they’ve gone elsewhere. Or in some cases, they may have abandoned the Church altogether. Whatever the reason, now is the time to pivot focus from “when they come back” to moving forward by rebuilding with the remnant. (Disclaimer: This isn’t to say we should write the others off. Continue to love them and if the opportunity presents itself, reach out to check on them).

Recently, John did a Facebook episode of Ask the Coach in which he spoke about changing our mindset regarding church metrics. I believe this is an important way we can focus on moving forward with the people we have, and build from that. This change definitely requires an extra measure of faith, but it holds promise for more peace. We relinquish the things we cannot control (the return of the missing church people) and focus on measurables that we can control. Often those measurables lead to growth in other areas.

He spoke of factors that the leader has virtually no say over whatsoever. For example, a pastor cannot control who shows up, who gives financially or who submits their lives to Christ. He then contrasted those with factors the pastor can drive to directly impact an end result—essentially, there’s a measure of manageability.

Therefore, it’s important to focus on the things you, as the leader, can control in a ministry setting and therefore move the church organization in a new and exciting way with those who remain—and those who join you along the way in this new leg of the journey. These can include:

A flawless guestexperience

Providing an atmosphere of care and genuine interest touches the hearts of regular attenders and guests alike. As leaders, you have the ability to create this experience for every service. Invite your people to join you in this.

A crisp, powerful worship encounter

Cultivate an atmosphere that encourages and guides people to a place of sincere worship. But avoid insider bias—avoid using terminology only insiders would know or assume that guests always know what to expect.

An organic/organized approach to discipling new believers

When people make a decision to follow Jesus, have systems and people in place to offer opportunities to invite new believers into a deeper walk with Jesus. Discipleship happens best life-on-life, eyeball-to-eyeball. Discipleship includes information transfer, but more importantly, help with applying the information in a life-transforming way.

Preaching and teaching that connects

It is crucial, especially in these times, to know the Word of God—study and prepare well for sermons. Also, to know your people—understanding their stories will help you be able to help them apply the Word. And to know yourself—when ministering the Gospel, do not try to be something (or somebody) you’re not.

The past 18 months have thrown some difficult obstacles at us (and things are still difficult in many cases). Churches need to redirect and move forward. It’s our desire to see you be able to do so in exciting ways as you walk into this new season. We’re here to help with that journey as well.

We are rooting and praying for you!

Jaime

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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