In my most recent publication, Being the Church in the Post Pandemic World, I coined three different typed of “gathered” people as they relate to the life of the church. They are three distinct groups of people with some similar characteristics and needs, but also some distinct differences. These types are the already gathered, newly gathered, and yet to be gathered. Let’s explore each.
The “already gathered” people are those that you would likely refer to as your existing congregation. These are the ones that are engaged in the life of the church and would consider your church their home church. For this time leading into the post pandemic world, their greatest needs are staying connected to the life of the church and other members, feeling a sense of congregational care, next steps to deepen their discipleship, and prayer.
The “newly gathered” people are those that have recently started engaging in the ministries of the church, but have not yet settled in as a “regular.” They are likely ones that are new since the pandemic hit, so therefore are only connected virtually thus far. For this time leading into the post pandemic world, their greatest needs are assistance in connecting relationally with others in the congregation, connecting in a ministry they are passionate about, and beginning their discipleship journey in ways that are meaningful, impactful, and/or transformational.
Not Yet Gathered
The “not yet gathered” people are those in your community (mission field) yet to be a part of a faith community. For this time leading into the post pandemic world, their greatest needs are a sense of community and belonging. There was already an epidemic of people who were lonely and depressed prior to the pandemic. Those numbers have only grown during the pandemic. The desire for community is deeply seated in being with others who have some shared affinity – a shared place of interest, need, or focus.
Note: As you can see, each of these “gathered” groups have a common need and desire for community. People are looking for meaningful relationships. (Refer to the earlier blog on how are you offering community for more insights.)
While the church often focuses and prioritizes the already gathered, this is a time where the church must be focused on the newly gathered and even more importantly the not yet gathered. When we make those who are not yet a part of a faith community our primary focus with authentic desire for relationship with them and providing support for their personal discipleship journey, the other two gathered groups will also have their needs met. It is through the already gathered living out their discipleship, that the newly and not yet gathered will connect and take their next faithful steps. It’s a beautiful thing when the already gathered focus less on themselves which results in the newly gathered taking their next faith step and the not yet gathered to find and connect with Christ. Afterall, isn’t that what Jesus intended the church to be?