The Advent season will begin very soon. This is the season where churches typically receive more guests than any other time of year. Is your church ready to receive guests? How will the guest experience be different this year because of COVID-19? Is your congregation making special preparations and anxiously anticipating receiving new guests?
To say that 2020 has been a weird year would be a gigantic understatement. To say that people aren’t stressed, too, would be a huge understatement. And, to report that many are searching for hope, peace, and community in epic proportions is not surprising. Unlike any other entity, the church can meet these needs like no other. Yet, I am often surprised how many churches are not poised to be the light in the darkness, the beacon of hope, and the source of community for their neighborhood.
With this need for hope, peace, and community at its peak, please consider these few steps to prepare, invite, and receive your neighbors in this Season of Advent:
- Consider offering worship in settings that offer masks and social distancing in creative ways where people will feel safe such as drive-in services and outside services.
- Consider offering a title, theme, and message that are seeker friendly and meet the need for providing a sense of hope, peace, and community. Stay away from churchy words and references. Make it compelling and relevant.
- Consider ramping up your hospitality to the level of radical or extravagant. Don’t just meet people’s hospitality expectations, exceed them! (For help, see Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations by Schnase.)
- Consider what next steps you will be offering not only for your congregation, but also your guests following Advent. Based on felt needs, what next baby step can you offer your guests? For example, consider online experiences such as a three-weeks series on “How to Chase Away the Pandemic Blues,” a panel discussion with local counselors on ‘Living Your Best Life in Liminal Times,” or a local expert on “Healthy Habits for our New Online Life.” Don’t expect seekers to jump right into worship or an on-going small group. Provide a comfortable next baby step that provides help for their needs.
- Consider ways to improve your connection process for guests. What is your follow up process for relating relationally over a period of time? A form letter from the pastor is not a connection process. (For help see Gear Up, Chapter Three by Kotan.)
- Consider opportunities to bring your whole community together by rallying around a large need in your community. Perhaps that might be providing internet for students doing online education, blankets for the local homeless shelter, care packages for teachers, etc.
- Consider how you are promoting your Advent series, your community project, and the follow up opportunities for your entire community. Often our advertising is very limited and internal. Consider how to use social media, flyers, posters, banners, yard signs, website, direct mail, etc. to let your community know how special of an Advent season you are offering.
By planning and implementing some intentional strategies, your church will reach more people, connect with more people, have deeper community impact, and introduce more people to Christ by offering hope, peace, and community when your neighbors need it more now than ever!