By Ken Braddy
I’ve made a few investments over the years that didn’t pan out the way I thought they would.
While in college, I invested a significant amount of money in a Canadian company at the advice of a classmate. He’d gotten a tip from a friend that this company’s stock, when it went public, was going to appreciate rapidly.
I took $1,500 of my hard-earned money and invested it.
Much to my dismay, the company never went public and I lost those dollars that could have been spent on books and tuition. It turned out to be a poor investment. I learned my lesson.
Let’s consider a much better kind of investment—the kind we can make in our churches. Financial investments in God’s work will never disappoint like the one I made in college.
When will your church reopen? Have you set a date? Are the members of your church eagerly anticipating coming back together for worship like the people at my church are?
Even now we are making plans and instituting guidelines that will allow us to reopen as safely as possible.
During all the excitement about reopening the campus, there are many things to consider. There are investments to be made.
How might things change at your church over the next 30 days? Sixty days? Ninety days and beyond?
Now is the time for all of us to consider making investments that will pay dividends as we re-gather for worship, Bible study, and other activities.
The Apostle Paul instructed his younger protégé, Timothy, to consider several important aspects of leading the church.
In 2 Timothy 2, Paul wrote to Timothy and encouraged him to serve like a soldier, compete like an athlete, and work like a farmer.
The hard-working farmer’s efforts were not immediately rewarded; the farmer needed patience. He worked in the here and now, plowed his fields, planted his crops, and waited to see the fruits of his labor.
In a similar way, the church makes decisions and investments now, waits patiently, and experiences the reward and results of those ministry decisions in the future.
Like the hard-working farmer of 2 Timothy, church leaders and members work hard, invest in the future, and wait patiently for God to reward those efforts.
As the church reopens, here are five investments your church and mine should consider making right now, so that we can see those investments pay great dividends as we minister to people.
1. New technology
When COVID-19 and physical distancing mandates made it impossible for our churches to meet for worship and Bible study, we (the church) pivoted quickly.
Many of our churches began using tools like Facebook Live for the first time to broadcast our worship services to the members of our churches. My church has done this with an iPad and a few audio cables.
But now we have invested in cameras that can be mounted on a wall, cameras that won’t be in the middle of the isle like the iPad is now (we pre-record our worship services and there are no church members present).
These cameras are capable of producing a much higher quality video, because we have decided that we must remain online.
Many people have discovered our church on the internet, and we want to continue serving them well, even after we come back to the campus.
2. Professional cleaning and freestanding hand sanitizers
If I asked, “Who is your church’s competition?” I imagine you would tell me about a church down the street. That would be a wrong answer!
The neighborhood Walmart and Taco Bell are now your church’s most dangerous competition. “How can that be?” you ask.
Last week when my wife and I went grocery shopping, the store employee greeted us behind a mask and gave us a shopping cart that she sterilized while we watched.
She wiped down the seat and handle, then presented it to us. My wife was impressed.
Then there was the night we made a Taco Bell run. The store employee at the drive-through window wore a mask, too, and held the credit card scanner out the window.
I inserted my card, and when it was approved, I placed the card back in my wallet. Our hands never touched. “Impressive,” I said to my wife.
I realized these two companies (and there are plenty more examples) have raised my expectations about what “clean” is. They’re communicating that they care about their customer’s safety and health.
All of this to say, your competition is now any company that raises the expectations of your congregation regarding cleaning and sanitizing.
Can you reopen with a new level of cleaning and sanitizing weekly? If not, you may want to invest significant dollars in this category.
3. Training for group leaders
Not all groups may want to return to your church campus, and those that do may still want to stay online. Teaching online is different than teaching a group in person.
Churches will need to provide new kinds of training for group leaders to continually improve and utilize online meeting tools to the fullest.
This may mean bringing in outside training to help, and that takes investment.
4. Disposable masks
My church is asking all members and guests to wear a mask when we return for worship. There is already pushback from members who either don’t see the viability of masks, or describe them as “hot” and “uncomfortable.”
We understand their concerns, but we also understand there may be benefits to the person wearing them, and especially to the more vulnerable members of the congregation.
Did we want to invest in boxes of disposable masks? Not at all. Did we make that investment? Yes, we did.
Your church may choose a different approach, but this investment had to be made sooner than later or we would not have the masks in time to reopen.
5. More money in the benevolence ministry
As unemployment rises because of COVID-19, our churches will find that members, guests, and people from the community who’ve never attended a worship service will find themselves with a significant financial need.
I hope things improve rapidly as the economy begins to come back to life. Unemployment will drop as businesses reopen.
But in the months following the reopening of the church, new financial investments in a benevolence ministry may be what is needed to meet people’s needs when they turn to the church for help.
Yes, some investments don’t pan out. But making an investment in God’s ongoing work in the world yields dividends in eternity.
I pray that your church is ready to reopen safely, and that you’re already considering making financial investments in your church’s various ministries as you reopen.
KEN BRADDY (@kenbraddy) is the director of Sunday School at Lifeway and disciples a group of adults at his church in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He is the author of several books, including Breathing Life Into Sunday School. He blogs regularly about Sunday school and groups at kenbraddy.com, and is host of The Sunday School Guy podcast.