By Diana Davis
It was totally unexpected. On a typical pre-COVID Sunday, our co-ed Bible class averaged about 20, but as we began meeting online during the current crisis, the Hollywood Squares-style Zoom class quickly jumped to 50 attendees.
During this chaotic time, many former members returned, and guests joined us. We even have three new members! Growth during COVID? Totally unexpected. Absolutely an act of God.
As your church deals with the ever-changing challenges of a pandemic, realize this is a unique opportunity to impact the lost for Christ. People are lonely, afraid, confused.
Others are bored, stressed, living in financial, health, or personal crisis. Today is the time to introduce them to God, who never leaves us or forsakes us, who brings peace, comfort, assurance, and eternal life through Jesus.
No, this moment in history isn’t a time for God’s people to nap or binge-watch television. It’s time to wake up! “But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest” (John 4:35b NLT).
Here are three easy-to-incorporate tips to ignite growth in your church or small group this week.
1. Get all hands on deck for personal invitations.
In today’s unusual climate, a personal invitation to connect with God’s church can be priceless.
Constantly remind every person in your church to invite friends and acquaintances to join their online or onsite Bible class and worship service. A simple invitation can be effectively used by God to change lives.
Re-invite last year’s visitors.
Make a list of each person who visited your church over the past year, including guests in worship, Bible study, Vacation Bible School, camps, and events.
Divide the list among Bible classes or assigned volunteers, with a challenge to contact each person within two weeks.
Inquire about their needs, inform them of new worship and Bible class schedule, invite them to join you Sunday, and pray for them.
Many unchurched people are seeking God right now. Make the personal contacts.
Invite peripheral members.
Re-welcome members who haven’t attended recently. Prepare a full list of members who haven’t attended for a year.
Organize volunteers to personally contact each one to inquire about needs, invite them to current church gatherings, and pray with them. You may be astonished at the results!
Use social media to invite unchurched people.
- Send a nicely designed e-invite to all members to share with their online friends and platforms. They can add a personal note.
- Place social media ads to invite people. They’re inexpensive, simple to use, and effective.
- Your personal social media platforms offer a golden opportunity. Post or tweet a daily Scripture, an encouraging word, or personal story with a Bible verse. When COVID began, my husband posted 31 short devotionals from Proverbs on his Facebook page one month. Hundreds read them, and many of the readers weren’t Christians!
- Repost Christian posts. On Saturdays, post a link to your church’s online worship service or Bible class. When church meets onsite, post “Hope to see you at church tomorrow!”
Engage everybody, any way you can.
Print yard signs for members’ lawns. Hang banners outside the church. Send a personal invitation to city leaders, police, firefighters, school principals, families who use your church’s daycare, anyone!
Place ads in local papers. Print business-card-size invites for members to use to easily invite people they encounter. Immediately update with new cards as circumstances change.
2. Warmly welcome guests.
As God brings newcomers to your church, it’s strategically important to warmly embrace them.
Okay, I admit it’s rather difficult to greet visitors when we can’t shake hands or stand too close, but don’t use social distancing as an excuse to ignore guests when they arrive.
Stand back (social distancing), smile with your eyes (behind your mask), and converse, demonstrating a personal interest in them.
Don’t just say “Glad you’re here” and turn away. Get their email and phone number so you can call them later this week. Ask God to show His love through you as you speak.
If your church or class meets on site, be certain church members and leaders are intentionally conversing with every guest God brings to your church, welcoming them and getting to know their needs.
If your church or class meets virtually, train members to engage guests online and make them feel welcome, praying for guests as the class meets.
Call them by name. Invite them to return next week. Ask if they’d like to join your class.
Prepare an online guest registration form for on-site and virtual guests to complete, then assign a team of greeters or leaders to contact each guest that same afternoon to engage them, answer questions, and pray for them.
Connect the guest and family members with an appropriate small group or Bible study for immediate personal follow up.
3. See a need and meet it.
Challenge every member and every small group in your church to aggressively watch for ways to show God’s love during this pandemic.
Pay attention to discover large and small needs within your church family because, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).
Find ways to connect members with needs to members who can assist them. Help those who can’t attend—such as homebound, hospitalized, assisted care residents—to connect with online Bible study and worship.
Offer to help set it up for them. Some may be able to attend a Bible class online for the first time, and they could even invite others to watch with them.
Meet small and large needs in your community, in Jesus’ name. Smile at someone. Hold the door open. Do something to encourage the county emergency management department or police or hospital workers.
Stage a small balloon parade outside the windows of a local senior care center, with posters of Bible verses, greetings, and encouragements.
Our church planned a drive-through food pantry for the needy, loading each trunk with food. Your town’s needs are unique, so pay very close attention, find a need, and meet that need in Jesus’ name.
“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13a, 14-16).
So, as you attempt to juggle the next COVID crisis event, make the most of today’s opportunities (Colossians 4:5). Don’t forget to see and meet needs, invite people, and welcome them when they come.
Only God knows, but these pandemic days may just bring unprecedented church growth.
DIANA DAVIS is author of Deacon Wives (B&H Publishing) and four other books. She lives in Pensacola Beach, Florida. ©2020 Diana Davis.