More than one Bible teacher or commentator I trust has made the observation during this challenging time that "No, it isn't the end of the world."
But at the same time, they add, "But it might be a fore-shadowing, a warning, a practice for what's ahead."
This isn't what we want to hear
I know that. I know all of us hope that in a few months (we realize it won't be weeks now) that everything will be back to the way it was. That we can do what we want, go where we want, buy what we want, and worship how we want.
Dr. Fauci gave us a reality check when he recently said, "We probably shouldn't ever shake hands with anyone again.
An emblematic statement of how much will change to be sure.
We didn't expect this; we don't think we deserve it
Even those of us who don't ascribe to "name it and claim it" theology, in our heart of hearts, get upset when God doesn't give us what we want when we want it.
If we think we've been good, and haven't sinned too much, go to church regularly and tithe, we think God should keep us from poverty and challenges.
And then Covid19 hit.
Good people died. Nurses and bus drivers and people at our churches died. Kind and caring people lost their jobs—the waiters and waitresses, our hair-dresser and barber and person who did our pedicure. People we know have tremendous needs and we aren't sure how or if to help because we have needs also.
We hope somebody is taking care of the people who have simply disappeared and we don't have any way to check on them.
Church has changed. Some of us love it and embrace the new ways of worship, others are simply lost without ways to connect.
We have a choice in how to respond—we whine about what's lost or grow strong from the challenges
I think this is a wake-up call. That's the clear pattern of how God works.
I just finished a year of teaching through the Bible (for lessons and podcasts, go to Bible805.com) and there were a number of clear lessons I saw repeated again and again:
- God is not in the business of making His people comfortable in this life, but of preparing them for the next.
- God gives us tests to let us see what we are made of; what we truly value and trust in. The implied hope is that if our values and focus are not what they should be that we should change.
- God often warns and sends smaller tests before final judgments.
Ways church communicators can strengthen your people
I can't help you in all areas to prepare for God's coming and continual challenges, but one area I can help in is through helping you create more effective church communications.
We know God wants His people to become mature disciples and one of the core values of Effective Church Communications is our 5 Steps of Effective Church Communications and Marketing, which is a strategic and progressive communication plan to take people from outside the church to the goal of becoming a mature disciple. If our church communications are helping people become mature disciples, that will better prepare them for whatever happens in our world and their personal lives.
With that in mind, here is some introductory material about the 5 Steps and how they can serve your church.
First of all, The Five Steps are:
Much of what we do in church communications when things are going well is to center on the first step—primarily inviting people to church.
Typically, again, when things are going well and it's enough to have a big, enthusiastic Sunday morning service, involvement in each progressive step diminishes until we get to the 4th Step, INSTRUCT, where we want to grow people in their faith and in the 5th Step, INSPIRE where we want to challenge people to live as disciples of Jesus.
If you want to evaluate how well you've done in these steps of INSTRUCTING and INSPIRING, ask yourself, "How well have our people responded to the current crisis?"
Have your people had the spiritual resources to be at peace and to share with others during this time?
Have they been able to nurture their own souls at home?
Have they been an encouragement to others who perhaps don't know the Lord?
To answer these questions, you don't need a formal survey. As the leader or shepherd of your people you know.
If you see some areas where your people need to grow and mature in their walk with Jesus, now is a great time to work on that. And to work on growing your people to maturity in disicipleship will take effective communications to help get them there.
How Effective Church Communications can help you
First, put on your oxygen mask—this advice is often repeated and a reminder that we often need to do something for ourselves before we can help others.
If you want to strengthen your people during the current crisis—no matter how long it lasts and prepare them for whatever challenges lie ahead until we are all safe at home with Jesus, one of the first things you can do is to expand your communications ministry from primarily outreach and not stop until you guide people to become mature disciples.
As I am preparing to launch the Effective Church Communication Academy (hopefully a beta launch this week), I've spent months praying and thinking deeply about what is the unique focus of Effective Church Communications and what do I have to offer you to help you become a more effective church communicator.
Again and again, I go back to my 5 Steps of Effective Church Communications and Marketing, which is an overall vision/plan/roadmap for how to take people from outside the church to help them become mature disciples of Jesus. What makes this of primary importance is that it is founded on the North Star that all your communications have the ultimate goal of helping people come to know Jesus as Savior, in other words of "fully fulfilling the Great Commission."
When you have the Great Commission as your North Star, many of the other issues of church communications that seem so pressing, such as:
- What technology do we use now? Zoom or YouTube?
- What if people can't access them? Or mess them up for others? (If, as reported to me an older church member kept trying to log on to ZOOM and was on/off/on/off with a dog yipping in the background, distracting everyone—do you cut her off or offer in an online session to help her figure it out?)
- Our video guy is working 60 hours a week—is that fair? (The answer, by the way, is NO. If your standards for perfection endanger someone's mental and emotional health—that is not of the Lord. Either lighten up or get him some help.)
- Do we need all new tech equipment to be a successful church going forward?
All these concerns, though they may be great questions to ask, should fall into place when you realize that God's people throughout the ages have been able to fulfill His will, no matter what technology they used, no matter what the circumstances.
Every communication tool from pen on parchment to the lastest in video streaming can help people grow in their faith. And every communication tool can be used more effectively if you have adequate training to use it well.
More specifically how I can help
Overall, as I said, I hope to launch the beta version of the Effective Church Communication Academy (ECC Academy for short) this week. I've designed it to help you in many ways.
Prior to what has challenged us with this time of the virus, I've been working on the school because it seems that many church communicators today are attempting to do HUGE amounts of work and challenging tasks with little training in the foundational skills of strategy, design (including layout, use of images, typography), effective writing, and communication planning and evaluation. I've taught years of classes, written books and articles on these topics that have helped many and it's time to share them.
For some, it will be a review. "Yeah, I know you're supposed to do that," you may find yourself saying, though you may have gotten lazy in execution. For others, much of it may be new. Some of the courses were recent creations; some will are from my archives, but all I trust will be informative and useful.
In case you are wondering—it will be super affordable for everyone and if you can't afford it, even at the low price I'll have, all you need to do is email me at email@example.com and ask for a free membership. You don't have to explain why; just ask and I'll send a return code for free. It costs me to create and host the school, but I do believe God has distributed resources to all His children as we have needs. I'm trusting there are those able to pay for the school and perhaps even donate to it and that will meet my needs and costs.
Stay tuned; check out my newsletters as they arrive for launch information. Pray for me for focus and the ability to do all I need to do to get done for what needs to be done and for protection from software and internet issues.
God is so good and I'm excited to see what He will do next for all of us. We have no idea what that will be the challenges in our world and personal lives, but we do know He has the resources to prepare us for it.