In a September 23, 2020 report, Barna released some startling information. Spiritual, emotional, and relational well-being were noted to be of concern about congregations as reported by pastors. In the same report, forty percent of US adults say depression or anxiety impacts their most important relationships (survey form 2019). Less than 7 in 10 US adults agreed they feel connected to family and friends in the midst of the pandemic crisis. In those who identify with no faith, that number decreases to 6. In an October 15, 2020 report, Barna released a study showing only a third of young adults ages 18-35 agreed they often felt deeply cared for and only 32% felt someone believed in them.
As vaccinations begin to roll out and we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, we remain hopeful for better days ahead. We are all ready to be able to gather with loved ones, gather in larger group settings, and move about more freely without anxiety or concern. Yet, these alarming statistics are not going to magically reverse themselves post pandemic. These were growing concerns even before the pandemic and only increased during the pandemic.
Here is the good news: The church is perfectly positioned and equipped to bring a new sense of hope and connection to the world! But here is the caution: The church is likely not going to be able to do this by being the church we were pre-pandemic. We must be more much intentional and in-tune with our community. As the church we often are so tuned into our congregation that we tune out the community. This is not intentional. It happens because we are not traditionally conditioned to be tuned into the community. Besides being more intentional to focus on our community, we are going to have to shift from being program-driven to relationally-driven. This means we can no longer rely on launching a new ministry or a new or improved worship experience to drive new people to the church. Instead, we must be out building relationships, connecting with new people that result in new people connecting first to us, then to Christ, and finally to the church.
How is your church providing community for your community? How is your church providing intentional opportunities to meet new people in your community offering connection and relationship that is meaningful to the people in your community? How are you offering hope and meaning? People are starving for relationship, connection, hope and purpose. Aren’t we as the church the perfect and logical choice to offer these things? I believe so and hope you do, too!
Note of caution: Please do not assume you know the specific relational issues or the ways in which your community would be most open to connecting with new people. The best way to find out is to ask the very people you are trying to reach! Seek first to understand your community before offering ways to be the community for your community.