Problems are the cutting edge that distinguishes between success and failure. Problems call forth our courage and our wisdom… It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually
M. Scott Peck
Turning ‘on-line’ attendance into deeper engagement
Many of us are facing some difficult choices this month with regard to church. To open or not to open. As David Marsh at Centre Point in West Bromwich put it, “It’s a choice between clicks or bricks”. For many it will be a mixture of the two. One of our former ForMission students, Geoff Knott, who is deeply involved in the world of web sites, especially for churches, recently wrote a piece on the topic of “on-line” attendance which I share with you here:
“Mal Fletcher, a social futurist, recently spoke in an online session with church leaders organised by Everything. In the discussion he was asked, “Many of us have found we’ve had a lot more people viewing online than we had attending on a Sunday prior to lockdown. So whilst we’ve had a lot of engagement, engaging viewers to disciples is a skill that for many of us are somewhat floundering at at this point in time. We’re not quite sure how to do that. Thoughts and comments?”
His response was as follows:
I think the most important thing is to keep in the back of our minds, the idea that the transition from cyber church to real church is not necessarily a smooth or fluid one for most people.
Most people who see us online have gone there looking for answers or are just curious during this period, looking for hope perhaps. They have not gone to that session with the idea that “I would like to go to a physical church today, but I can’t.”. So, we have to go into this question with the understanding that we must transition people gradually from one to the other.
For many people, it’s not going to be as simple as saying, “We’ve done digital church. Now we can gather again. So please come along to our physical church.”. We will find probably 80% of those people will never come straight into physical church. So I’m suggesting to pastors something like this:
Firstly, if we start off with our digital services live streamed or pre-recorded, which is what many churches do now, then the next stage beyond that might be that we invite people from that service to a digital Q&A. This is where, after the service, one hour after this service, you can go to Zoom. Here’s the link. And you’re going to be part of a group of people who can ask the preacher or the pastor, any question you like about what he or she said today. That’s very attractive by the way, Q&A is hugely attractive to people as we know, especially in this age.
Secondly, move then from Q&A into perhaps an Alpha style general introduction to faith. So, if you came along to the Q&A, maybe you’d like to explore Christianity a bit more.
Thirdly, go from that into an online connect group. Same thing we do when we come together physically, but we’re doing it online. Then they might be ready for a face-to-face connect group or in time, offline weekly services. At least that gives the opportunity for someone to say that the church did everything it could. It gave me every opportunity to move from being a cyber follower or just an interested party online to a really engaged, discipled Christian.
It’s so important we just don’t assume, make a false assumption that people, because they’re watching us online are particularly interested in what we offer on Sunday in a physical church.
I’ve even advocated, in further answer to that question, that we actually think about continuing the prerecording of our Sunday sermons for the digital, with a couple of acoustic songs, no big production numbers. Continue to put that out every week, in addition to streamed live services from a building for weekly services. Why? We don’t want to lose the people who see themselves as cyber viewers. “I came in for this. I like this. Why did you take that away from me? I’m not quite there yet, but I’m still interested.”.
It has benefits for the preacher because rehearsing what you say is always a good move, before you present it live. But also, I think it raises up new technicians in the church – young people who are have enormous technological gifts and haven’t been able to use them. There’s not a lot of extra work if you choose to do this. I’m just saying, recognise the audience. It’s not the same audience you speak to on a Sunday. It’s a different audience with a different set of needs.”
Grants for church buildings
Dan Yarnell has sent this helpful email from an organisation that offers grants to churches to help with building maintenance. Take a look to see if this email could help you.
From: Catherine Townsend <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, 24 Jul 2020 at 13:31
Subject: Grants for church building maintenance
Now that churches, chapels and meeting houses are once again able to be open for worship and visitors, we’d like to remind you of the availability of grant funding for essential maintenance work and small repairs through our Foundation grant programme, in partnership with the Pilgrim Trust.
Through the Foundation grant programme, we can fund small works to your church building that cost up to £10,000 (excluding VAT) with grants of up to 50% of the cost (up to £5,000). Works would need to have 2 quotes in place and permissions if required. Decisions are made on a monthly basis. Our final deadline for 2020 funding through this programme will be 30 October 2020, but as maintenance is so important to the condition of your building, we urge you not to delay! As an idea of what we fund – the majority of our grantees require funds to repair rainwater goods, drainage repairs, to carry out small repointing and stone repairs, and small roof repairs. Please follow the link for the full guidance and access to the online application form.
If you have any questions at all, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be very happy to help. For details of the other grants we offer towards church building repairs see here.
You may also be interested in information we continue to update on our website relating to reopening churches following Covid-19
Please do circulate these details amongst your church networks too.
Building Deeper Connections with your Neighbourhood
We would all like to have better relationships with our immediate community but how to do about that? This resource by Together for the Common Good takes you to some very practical ways ahead. It’s not a quick read but you might want to consider using the group sessions as part of our programme for the Autumn. Take a look…
Together for the Common Good have published a free Guide to show you how to run four short group sessions locally as a basic introduction to Common Good principles and help the group develop an action plan together for your local context.
The participants could be:
- key workers,
- faith leaders,
- acknowledged community leaders and volunteers,
- local business leaders,
- local representatives of ‘agencies’ e.g. Local Authority, police, NHS, schools,
- people who have used the foodbank or other community services.
This list is not exhaustive!
- includes an outline for each session, readings and questions;
- includes tips on preparing for and running the sessions;
- is intentionally written in non-religious language to be inclusive for all faiths and none;
- stresses that you don’t need to do it all – leadership can be shared across the group.
The four short sessions can be run online or face-to-face. They help participants explore Common Good principles and relate them to their lives: in this place, right now.
The Common Good is the shared life of a society in which everyone can flourish – as we act together in different ways that all contribute towards that goal, enabled by social conditions that mean every single person can participate. We create these conditions and pursue that goal by working together across our differences, each of us taking responsibility, according to our calling and ability.
The Common Good is something we build together – it fosters community spirit and strengthens the bonds of social trust. It transcends party political positions.
As we consider the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath, we realise that the re-build required will need to be underpinned by a consensus, where human beings understand the relationship between virtue and social, political and economic life. The crisis is showing us in stark terms that it is only when we think of others and love our neighbours, when we show solidarity with each other, and when we work together to build the Common Good, that we flourish as human beings.
In the wake of the crisis, there is a danger we may return to the status quo. But the crisis has exposed many weaknesses in our society that were there before and that is why pursuing the Common Good is so necessary. By building on the community spirit that emerged during the crisis, we can strengthen relationships and social solidarity within our communities. We can strengthen, preserve and celebrate the unique character and humanity of our neighbourhoods.
In this crisis, you have probably been liaising with many people across your community. Why not foster these relationships through running these sessions?
A Message from the Evangelical Alliance
Many of you will be aware that FCC is a member of the Evangelical Alliance. The CEO, Gavin Calver, has sent this message to us in the last few days:
Dear Fellowship of Churches of Christ in GB and Ireland,
Thank you for being a member of the Evangelical Alliance. We are so grateful for your ongoing support for our work.
The last few months have been a time of great challenge and uncertainty, and yet, because of Fellowship of Churches of Christ in GB and Ireland’s membership, we are serving the church and bringing hope and transformation in Jesus’ name.
Because of your membership we have been invited into conversations with government ministers and civic leaders, speaking up on your behalf as we consider how we can start to reopen churches across the country. Thank you for your support, which allows us to continue making sure the evangelical voice is heard in the corridors of power.
Because of your membership we are seeing more people come to know Jesus. Through our recent survey, 59 per cent of churches told us they have seen an increase in people interested in Jesus and the Christian faith during lockdown. With your help we have produced resources to equip churches to meet this spiritual hunger, from sharing ideas around digital church to our Story Bearer sessions.
We have spoken directly with church and charity leaders, hearing the concerns and challenges from around the UK. We have produced the Changing Church Toolkit, to help churches adapt to and navigate the changes lockdown has brought about, as you continue to reach out to your communities with the good news of salvation in Jesus.
Because of your membership we have continued to elevate the conversation around race and ethnic integration, as we do all we can to unite evangelicals, heal past wounds and foster greater relationships throughout the UK church.
You have enabled us to do so much, especially during this season of lockdown, so thank you. We cannot be more grateful for your membership, as you join with us to see real and lasting change in the UK. Together we make Jesus known.
My message of thanks.
Introducing Phil Seadon
Continuing our series on introducing members of the National Council, this week we feature Phil Seadon who is a member of the Rowheath Pavilion Church. Phil began in ministry close to 50 years ago, and together with his wife Ruth, began a church plant in inner city Birmingham in a predominantly Muslim area.
Phil and Ruth shared with Lynda and Martin Robinson in planting the church that has become Rowheath Pavilion Church. Following a time, leading in this church, Phil took up a role as a Prison Chaplain, near Telford and had a valuable ministry in working with many troubled men, leading a good number to faith in Christ. Phil is now retired but of course Christians never totally retire, and he is still active in preaching for churches with whom he has personal connections. Phil loves to paint and his delight in nature takes him towards painting landscapes both in oil and using water colours.
Till next week, Martin Robinson…