IS MY CHURCH DOING OK DURING THE PANDEMIC?
Creating and Distributing an Impact Report This Summer
A fresh new approach to informing and inspiring congregations got its start less than a year ago, and just in time! The Impact Report Company is serving churches by creating colorful and branded infographic-style reports quickly and inexpensively – and there is no time like the present.
Someone recently joked that everyone in 2015 got this question completely wrong: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Among the many new challenges churches are facing in 2020 is the perception by members of the congregation that their church is in a bad or precarious position. This is true for some churches, for sure, depending on factors like size, demographics, and area of the country.
But most churches are really stepping up to current challenges and thriving in ways they never thought they would.
There are more than a handful of churches that are actually seeing their attendance increase (counting online participants) and their financial giving go up – at a time when many are presuming it is going the opposite direction. Still, members of the congregation, listening to the social media grapevine or the national news media, may be assuming their church is in a worst-case scenario. They just don’t know the actual state of their church.
Whether your church is struggling or thriving, the point is this:
People need to hear the state of the church from their leaders, or they will each invent their own narrative about what is “actually going on”.
Inventing their own narrative is what humans do when there is a vacuum of information.
Here are a few thoughts people are having these days whether they articulate them to their church leadership or not:
“I wonder if our church made adjustments to weather the storm.”
The normal communication dynamic of most local congregations is still very driven by a once per week meeting – no matter how much we have put into digital formats. In other words, normally whether I read the email that came from the church or not, I can at least catch up on Sunday. That changed over night. And with health, financial, and emotional concerns in the news and on the rise, people are wondering if their church is surviving or suffering.
“I wonder if my church was like the others who were really able to help lots of people in need.”
Many churches have stepped up during this pandemic in amazing ways. Because the church is an organization that attracts compassionate people, it was only a few days or weeks before churches began serving their communities. At the same time, they are so busy becoming activated, they struggle to have time to communicate that news. Some members don’t even know how much good their church is doing, and it really should be celebrated!
“I suspect our church had to make significant cuts because of financial loss.”
Churches regularly struggle with knowing how to communicate the financial status and health of the church under normal conditions. But under the conditions of 2020, the communication challenge just became steeper. It is wise for churches to tighten their belts during such a year, because not doing so would be insensitive and tone deaf to the context. But it is even better when church leaders inform the congregation that they are executing those adjustments as quickly and carefully as possible.
But again, not all churches are experiencing loss. And not all churches are reducing staff. And not all churches are cutting programs. The puzzle for many in the congregation is they just don’t know what is happening. Best practice churches answer the question, “What exactly is my church doing during this crisis to adjust the sails?” and “Is our giving declining in some way that I should be aware of?”
“I feel more motivated to get involved when I know what is going on.“
Transparency is still a winner for leaders of churches. The more people are made aware of what is going on (even challenges and disappointments), the more trust in leadership goes up. And when there are victories and great stories to be celebrated, trust is reinforced with the idea that “God is using our church in spite of the circumstances.”
When leaders are not silent about the state of the church, but inviting the congregation to understand the realities, the partnership that people feel with the church and its leadership increases. Members of the congregation who are prayer warriors like to know what to pray about. Members who did not lose their jobs and have discretionary income may want to know how they can help financially. Still others will be motivated to step up their involvement with a church that is responding so well during the pandemic and serving their community. It would be rare to hear a church member say, “I am not really sure what is happening, so I want to increase my involvement all the more!”
The summer of 2020 is a prime opportunity to start or refresh creative ways to lead churches by getting everyone up to speed on challenges and opportunities that will inspire more engagement, no matter what the future holds.