Much is being written and discussed about how Covid 19 has affected churches. How to reopen churches safely has been a priority of the United Methodist Church. And as we continue to come out from the restrictions that Covid 19 has placed on our communities, we recognize that people are not coming back to church. The numbers of people attending worship services, educational programs and other activities of the church are far less than pre-Covid 19 pandemic times. One article that I read recently, written by David Sharp, lists six reasons why people are not returning in our post pandemic new normal.
- Covid hesitancy for nineteen plus months after the first Covid case was reported in the US with the now Delta variant of this virus wreaking havoc on many communities throughout our nation, has made returning to some kind of normal difficult. Given this resurgence of cases, some churches have cancelled or curtailed activities. Churchgoers, along with parts of our nation, are making decisions about where, what they do, and how they come in contact with other people.
- Inertia is a synonym of inactivity or sluggishness. For some churchgoers, Covid 19 was an “External force” that disrupted the “Velocity along a straight line” of their churchgoing. Churchgoers will need another “External force” to get them re-engaged as churchgoers. Because we are talking about spirituality rather than material realities, the force will need to be a compelling motivation. The question is: What types of forces will be needed to get God’s people back into the church?
- For many years now, the term “Weak attachment” has been associated with many churchgoers and Covid 19 has turned into new parameters for nominal Christians. Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, describes this as soil that either does or does not provide fertile ground for cultivation of the gospel seed.
- Many people have used Covid 19 as an opportunity to switch churches. While this is not a sad thing it does present issues for churches that have lost part of their congregation that attended the activities and worship of the church prior to the pandemic. Some individuals have moved to other churches where they have found a church that meets the needs for the individual or family more closely aligning with their religious beliefs, and some have just chosen to change “Scenery,” regarding the church or churches they attend. Some are using this time to look at other churches to be a part of for any one of many different reasons.
- There are those who believe churches do not add value to their lives. The mission of the church is to connect God’s people with God, with other people and with a purpose. To put this distinctly, members of churches must be willing to pay the price of attending, tithing, and volunteering precisely because they derive value from attending a church. When we perceive that the value of attending a church is no longer connecting us to God, people, and the purpose, the church will show a lack of spiritual health and the price to pay for attending, tithing, and volunteering is not there.
- Some churchgoers, during the time of Covid 19, saw NO Jesus. There was no added value to be an authentic Christian. The apostle Paul identified this kind of value when he wrote “I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”(Philippians 3:8). When some previous churchgoers realized that they could get much of the same common-sense advice at home, without the cost of attending church, they just stayed home.
So, the question is: What do us as individuals and as a family at Claybanks United Methodist Church do? There are many possibilities that will allow churches to once again gain or regain those who would attend and participate in worship, Sunday school and other activities of the church. First, I ask that you as an individual read, meditate, and pray on Psalm 46 (God’s Defense of His City and People). The church must develop communications and give compelling motivation to those who have not returned to pre-pandemic church activities. We must move from rest to velocity. We must give those who are not attending reasons to be once again engaged in the church. Hebrews 10:25 exhorts us about, “Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.” To do this, the Claybanks United Methodist Church SPRC and Administrative Council are working on plans for church growth in the upcoming year. We will be addressing four key areas in which we will place our efforts and grow our church once again. We plan to make church more about youth, to focus on our community, to develop more communication with those we are trying to reach, and importantly to be more inviting to our community by not pressuring but sharing what we as churchgoers and followers of Jesus Christ gain from being a part of the Claybanks United Methodist Church community. In the upcoming weeks and months we, together as individuals and a church community, will be focusing on how you and I can help reopen and engage our church. I invite you to pray, take advantage of the resources that we have, go the extra mile, take moments to give thanks, take time to learn what you can do, communicate the practical and spiritual sides of your church, and how over the years Claybanks United Methodist Church has been a vital part of your life!