25 September 2022

Praise God for his work despite congregations’ COVID-caution

Church numbers have declined since COVID. Picture: iStock

By Evan Englezos 

12 August 2022

It’s no secret that many churches have experienced a decline in numbers due to the pandemic. Across the board, ministers are sharing the struggle to get their members to return to in-person services. 

Livestreaming services have provided some limited connection for some parishioners who cannot or have not been ready to attend in-person. However, the efforts to “convert” people to return to the more engaging in-person experience have not been fully realised in results. 

So, what helps to bring people back to church? 

Community and care 

St Thomas’ Burwood lead minister John Carrick leans towards a “soft approach” without expecting people to return to church.  

“We understand that people are in different situations and that some weeks are better than others,” he said. 

Read more: Exhaustion, ‘erratic’ church attendance require ministers to lower expectations

Encouraging a sense of community has been a real drawcard. In members’ first morning tea back together in February, St Tom’s capitalized on pleasant weather, fresh air and good food, and there was a keen sense of the goodness of meeting together. 

But not everyone was ready to return for morning tea. It has been more difficult to draw in young families and youth. 

Mr Carrick said among the youth who didn’t feel ready to join a large group straight away was his son Noah Carrick. St Tom’s youth minister took Noah to a rock-climbing session which helped to rebuild connection. Noah recalls, “After Josh took me rock-climbing, I felt ready to go back to church and I enjoyed it once I did. It was actually fun”. 

Another minister at a small suburban church shared the importance of pastoral connection and simple acts of care. 

“Anything that gives people hope is worth doing,” she said. 

The church organized a creative Fun Day for young families with activities including making lanyards, playing games, a drawing table, and creating DIY pizzas with flat bread. 

“We wanted to keep it low key, simple for us to run and enjoyable for everyone. It hit the spot and was a success,” she said. 

Online options 

The reliance of digital technology for connection still has its place. As Nicky Gumbel puts it, “The Holy Spirit is not confused by Zoom!” 

Tasmania’s Lindisfarne Anglican lead minister Chris Bowditch is running a prayer course with 30 participants. 

Read more: The answer to church decline is right in front of us 

“We’re offering it once on Tuesday nights via Zoom and again on Wednesday morning in-person,” he said. 

“This has enabled great buy-in from a range of people in our church; working families who get kids to bed but can’t go out, retired older people who don’t like technology and some non-working mums. 

“The idea is that if we teach people to pray and give them loads of tools to pray this builds a base of prayer in our church that will fuel our mission events and activities going forward.” 

So my reflections on this? 

We praise God for the work he is doing in the simple things.  

We praise God for each follower of Jesus who goes about their day living out simple acts of generosity and faithful acts of kindness. 

We pray that He will continue to build his church and kingdom for his glory. 

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