How is your church different now than in 2019?
This was the question I asked in my blog on January 11. It linked to a survey that many of you responded to.
As I reviewed and organized what I learned from this survey, I came up with "Seven ways life happened to church in the past three years."
So far, I've written blogs on three of these. This is the fourth. The insight is that as a result of the pandemic, we now have a more Cautious Congregation.
Church staff are seeing this in the form of less responsiveness to connection cards; more quickly to say no when asked to volunteer; less engaging in community; and, for many people, a slow return to church life.
These insights come from personal conversations as well as survey responses like these:
"People are more cautious about becoming ill, so are not as involved."
"Less engaged and reticent to involvement."
"Over analyzing every little thing, mistrust, lack of confidence,"
"I sense a lingering fear and lack of desire to re-engage."
"Some volunteers were slow to come back on board,”
How do we respond?
1 Thessalonians 5:14 comes to mind ...
Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.
Perhaps some of these folks are lazy, but if cautious is a better description, then it is more likely that they are timid or weak. Weak means without vigor or strength. They lack confidence. Bottom line: you need to encourage, take care of, and be patient with these people. You need to build or rebuild their trust.
We have talked about trust as a measure for small groups and community life for about 15 years. We typically measure it by measuring consistency. When trust is high in a group, consistency is high. When trust is low, consistency is low.
At its core, trust is built by consistent relationships and consistent relationships are build by frequent, open, and honest conversations. Here are a few software features that we designed specifically to help you build these types of conversations and relationships.
Text-to-Chat. Our latest upgrade for Text-to-Church, Chat gives your congregation the ability to send an open text. Staff with access can respond to them individually or as part of a multi-staff interaction.
Imagine asking people to text your church office number their prayer requests or their response to a question like, "how has your life changed since 2019." Multiple staff in multiple locations, even on their phone, are logged in and ready to respond.
Chat also has a feature that allows you to see a full history of texts not only for chats, but also for keywords and mass texts. Learn more at the 6:48 point in the Communicate Webinar.
Notes. In my view, the keystone habit for all church staff, even the most executive pastors, regarding use of software is to track their conversations using Notes.
First, it allows them to schedule a follow-up task. This empowers them to build consistency into their pastoral care, recruiting, guest, and leadership conversations. The system even sends them a reminder.
Second, it helps the staff team work together in relating to people because they can see each other's conversations, unless those conversations need to be confidential.
Third, it has a multiplying affect on how pastors and staff use the software. Notes opens up interest in process, groups, workflows and more. Learn more at the 25:11 point in the Foundations Webinar.
Volunteer Substitutions. When we upgraded our volunteer scheduling feature last year, we added the ability for volunteers to get their own subs. The system automatically provides volunteers with each other's contact information.
You have the choice to require, allow, or not allow volunteers to interact with each other when they need a sub. If you choose to give volunteers this responsibility, it gives them greater ownership and greater motivation to engage in relationships with each other. Learn more at the 12:05 point in the Volunteers Webinar.
As long as any of us live, we will remember the experiences and events of the past few years. The question for all of us is, what story do we want to tell? It's not over yet. There's still time to write an ending like ... we loved each other well.