By Rich Birch
The coming months represent a potentially unprecedented opportunity to see your church impact more people than ever before.
As the country begins to shake off the shackles of COVID-19 and the ensuing economic calamity that came from all of that we’re seeing new windows of opportunity opening up. It’s an opportunity for us to leverage this season for the message of Jesus.
We can all echo what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:9 “a great door for effective work has opened to me.” Let’s not miss this tremendous opportunity that is just around the corner!
Fall 2021 represents an unprecedented opportunity for your church to invite more people to come to be a part of your community.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, the difference between leading churches and languishing churches are leading churches create opportunities to motivate their people towards inviting their friends to be a part of their church. Whether it’s in-person or online, churches that are making an impact consistently find new ways to encourage their people to invite their friends to be a part of the church.Leading churches create opportunities to motivate their people towards inviting their friends to be a part of their church. - @richbirch Click To Tweet
Typically in the fall, we do see growth opportunities as people reorient their lives and come up with new rhythms. It’s sort of like a “second new year” particularly for so many churches as a core of who we’re trying to reach are families with kids. The return to school drives so much of the behavior in young family’s lives. This fall represents those dynamics on a potentially 10X scale as families for the first time return their kids to school and their lives begin to emerge from the haze that has been with us since March 2020.
Let’s not miss this opportunity, friends, and find ways to leverage this to encourage our people to invite more friends than we’ve ever seen before at our churches.
As I’ve been watching churches in this season, I see a disturbing trend, again, amongst many that are leveraging soft guilt with their people about how important it is for them to “return to the building”. Churches that obsess about getting people to the building will ultimately lose the bigger picture. It’s such a small vision to just get people back in their buildings like they were in March 2021. Let’s cast a bigger vision and move beyond shame to motivate people to get into our boxes. I’ve seen too many churches say things like the following that are trying to leverage negative emotions in order to get people to return.
- “We know there’s nothing like being in the room together.”
- “It’s time to return.”
- “Our forefathers fought for your right to attend church. You can fight the couch and join us.”
- “When the doors of the church are open, believers need to darken them!”
I’ve even churches misquoting passages like Psalm 122:1 [ref] which sets a dangerous precedent when we talk about our church buildings like the temple in the Old Testament. There’s a theological point to be made that one of the things that Jesus undid in the cross was the limitations of physical space being where the spirit of God would choose to move. It’s clear that on the cross Jesus declares that he can move in any place in any season. This needs to be driving our mission to reach new people in this season and not hyper-obsessed with getting people who used to sit inside our boxes to come and sit inside them again.
Let’s not miss this opportunity to encourage our people to invite their friends whether they’ve been with us for years or just started joining us over this last year-and-a-half. As people reoriented their lives, there are new opportunities for your church to invite people to be a part of your community, whether that’s online or in-person.
There are all kinds of signs that travel will be at incredible levels over the summertime. As that begins to wane coming closer to Labor Day and beyond, people will be looking to establish new patterns in their lives. Let’s create a positive community image with our people to encourage them to come back and be a part of the good things that are happening in our church. Here are a few ways that you could leverage this fall to get ready to reach more people.
5 Ways to Leverage Fall 2021 to Grow Your Church
Growing churches consistently motivate their people to be a part of the mission.
They move people to, at a bare minimum, invite their friends to come to be a part of the good things that God’s doing in their lives. In this season has all kinds of opportunity!
Here’s just a few things that you should be thinking about as we begin to plan out what this fall’s going to look like:Growing churches consistently motivate their people to be a part of the mission. - @richbirch Click To Tweet
1. Package it as a season
Many churches will have individual series that may last for anywhere from three to eight weeks long. However, I think this fall we have an opportunity to package the entire fall as one branded season for communication purposes. A number series strung together to make a season. We know that nothing builds momentum in a church like something new, and repackaging the fall from a communications point of view as a season that really builds anticipation for your people will naturally be the kind of thing that will spark people’s curiosity and encourage them to invite their friends to come to be a part of it.
You can call the entire fall timeframe something like “Season of Hope” or “Changing Seasons for the Better” or “Homecoming Season” leveraging off the fact that the fall is a specific timeframe within the calendar year.
Another advantage of this is we do know that through studies that we’ve seen that there are varying levels of COVID hesitancy continuing in our culture. Rather than trying to drive everyone back to a single Sunday or a single series branding the entire season gives lots of potential on-ramps for people to connect with your church.
2. Leverage all the “firsts” again
There’s no doubt that this fall your church will be doing a number of things for the first time in a long time. While during the pandemic season you maybe have attempted some of these, this season will be returning to a new normal, and many of these significant mile markers are important in the life of your church and create great opportunities for inviting friends to be a part of the church. These could be like any of the following:
- Baptism. While lots of churches took a chance to flex their creative muscles with doing fascinating, different baptism experiences over the last year-and-a-half, let’s leverage this season as an opportunity to gather people together and celebrate the life change that’s been taking place. This is a great opportunity for people to invite their friends.
- Baby dedications. Maybe your church normally doesn’t feature these within your main weekend services. However, this might be a great time to break that tradition as big dedications are a fantastic time to invite family and friends to come to be a part of your church.
- Back to School Sunday. Let’s celebrate that most kids in the country will be back to in-person learning this fall and feature a special Sunday that celebrates teachers and students returning to class.
- Christmas. No doubt we’ll be talking more about this in the coming months, but this Christmas at the end of this season will be a massive opportunity for us to invite our friends and community, whether it’s in-person or online to connect with the message of Jesus.
3. Don’t Miss the Halloween Opportunity
October 31st can be a controversial day in the calendar every year. While I have no intention to get into the theological nuances around what Halloween means and whether Christians should be even a part of it, it does represent a unique opportunity for your people to connect with their community. (Looking for some information on this? Click here to check out my friend Bruxy Cavey’s notes on why Halloween is a great opportunity for you to connect with your community.)
The reality is for most of our families, this Halloween will be the first time that they’ll connect with many neighbors who simply will want to come to their house. Resist the urge to do something at your church building, but instead mobilize your people to leverage this day as an opportunity to bless and care for their neighborhood. Encourage them to get the full-size chocolate bars and maybe invite family and friends to a fun family-oriented event sometime in mid-November with your church. Help your people with some practical instruction around how to engage with their neighbors on this evening by providing coffee for parents, or maybe something a little extra than what they would normally do.
This particular Halloween is a fascinating one because it lands on a Sunday! It would be so easy, it would be a layup for most churches to generate a take-home kit that can be picked up either the Sunday before Halloween or on Halloween to help their people leverage these days. I’m not talking about handing out tracts. What I’m talking about is helping our people engage positively in their neighborhoods. Think about it. In many communities across the country, you’re going to have dozens of people come to the doors of the people in your church. How can we leverage that as an opportunity for the gospel?In many communities across the country, you're going to have dozens of people come to the doors of the people in your church this Halloween. How can we leverage that as an opportunity for the gospel? - @richbirch Click To Tweet
4. Catalyze Social Connections
One of the clearer outcomes of the COVID season has been the lack of social connections that people are having. It’s almost like we got to teach people how to be friends again. This creates a great opportunity for our churches to actually be a platform upon which people could continue to build relationships. Don’t miss this opportunity to develop events and opportunities for your people simply to develop closer relationships with each other and to use those as opportunities to invite people to come and be a part of the church.
What if your church hosted a tailgate party one Sunday after church this fall out in the parking lot? Get everybody to wear their favorite team’s jersey, and then maybe invite people back in to watch a game on that big screen that hasn’t been put to much use over the last year-and-a-half. Maybe you could host a fall family crafting day where you invite families to bring their friends and to put together a simple craft that they could do with their kids. If you want to go all out, I know some churches leverage the fall with a fireworks spectacular, which is a great way to kick off the night before school starts this year. Set up an outdoor stage. Have your band play all kinds of songs off the radio. Hand out invites to an upcoming series, and then just as the sun begins to set, set off a great fireworks show. Maybe even a corn maze could be a fun way to help your people connect and have fun.What if your church hosted a tailgate party one Sunday after church this fall out in the parking lot? - @richbirch Click To Tweet
5. Give Back to the Community
Church has never been about the buildings. Resist the urge to communicate either subtly or not so subtly about the fact that you want to get people back into your rooms. There is nothing magical about your building. God wants to do work in your community. In fact, the balance of scriptural evidence is that God seems to prefer to work outside of holy buildings rather than within them. Think about any of the major characters in scripture and where God connected with them. The vast majority of them were in the marketplace, whether it was as they were fishing, or tending their sheep or out in the real world. Let’s mobilize our people to get out of their seats and into the street.Church has never been about the buildings. - @richbirch Click To Tweet
What if this fall you attempted to mobilize 70-plus percent of your entire church to make a difference in your community? Connect with a local civic leader and find out what are some needs in the community that your church could help. What would happen if your church mobilized hundreds of volunteers, tens of thousands of dollars, and potentially thousands of people-hours to make a real tangible difference in the life of your community? What a great story to tell to your community that the church is re-gathering, but we’re not re-gathering to get people to come into our buildings, but we’re re-gathering to get out into the streets and to bless the community!
Maybe there’s a way to give back to first responders or to long-term care homes that have been negatively impacted in this season. Or maybe there’s a way to give back to schools as they relaunch in-person learning in a significant way. Pull together your leaders and get creative and find ways to make a difference this fall in your community.Pull together your leaders and get creative and find ways to make a difference this fall in your community. - @richbirch Click To Tweet
Packaging all these things up into a single season for your church would create an incredible amount of new opportunities for your people to invite their friends to be a part of your church. Branding them all within a single unified theme would give them a cohesiveness that would see momentum to move from one to the next.
Don’t miss this opportunity to reach more people that’s just around the corner. None of us have ever come back from a pandemic but let’s not just whimper into what’s next, but let’s look for a way to accelerate and to move forward the mission that God’s called our church to.
Do you think you’ll try anything fun this fall? I’d love to hear your ideas down below in the comments!