One of the best things 2021 brought us was the regathering and reopening of many churches around the globe. Many people are beginning to come back to in-person services who may not have felt comfortable initially. It’s a homecoming worth celebrating and worth planning for. Many of these church members have been in lockdown or isolated for a long time. While we hope that they can jump back into where they were before, it’s more likely that it will take more intentional planning on the part of pastors and leaders.
We’ve organized three steps that will help returning members feel welcomed and involved as quickly and organically as possible.
1. Reword/Revamp Existing Groups/Classes
One of the best ways to get people involved after being absent a while is to help them reconnect with the vision and mission of your church. They probably stayed in contact with friends and leaders from church, but it’s equally as important to remind them why your church was home to begin with. This is where your Church App is your best friend. It’s the best place to park and update important details for your members without feeling like you’re inundating them.
If your church has a new member group or class, consider tweaking the name of the class and the pitch to make the messaging as far-reaching as possible. For example, maybe your church hosts a lunch or meeting with leadership and calls it, “New Members Lunch.” If you change that to “Welcome Home” or something without the words “new” or “visitor,” you can scoop in members who aren’t new, but could benefit from a smaller setting. You have to make good on your promise though. If you tell returning members to attend the meeting, make sure you deliver more than just the basics they already know.
Here are a few ideas to make this a fresh, inspiring meeting –
- Have a pastor or leader share how the church handled 2020 and persevered in their mission.
- Did 2020 change how you do church or any of your values? Communicate that. If they stayed the same, communicate that too!
- If the group is smaller, invite the members in attendance to share a bit if they feel comfortable. You may find that returning members act as a catalyst for the entire group to start talking.
2. Create More Pathways
Churches have come up with many creative and effective ways to get people involved. Typically, these efforts are focused on newer members. It’s time to widen the road to allow returning members the same opportunity to get involved. With people coming back, try not to assume they want to rejoin the teams or groups they were previously on. Maybe they are excited to jump back into their old small group or a service team, and that’s great! However, they might want to make the most of their fresh start with...well, a fresh start.
Talk to your team and encourage them to allow for these pivots and shifts as they come up without feeling offended. This may mean changing up the formula you’ve perfected over the years. But it could end up being an effective way to help returning members and even those people who always attended but never got more involved.
Do you normally open up/advertise groups or service teams a certain amount of times per year? We get it. Logistically it’s easiest on your team and makes the smoothest onboarding process for various departments and teams. However, breaking from tradition here could be beneficial to reengaging returning members as soon as they start coming back.
3. Assess and Address and Spiritual Needs
Being home or disconnected from community does funny things to people. Even those who tolerated it well still had obstacles to overcome once they reengaged at church. As a pastor or leader, it’s crucial to find out how returning congregants are doing spiritually. 2 Timothy 4:2 Paul encourages Timothy to “correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” This may mean preaching and teaching that instructs and equips your church to continue to grow closer to God or one-on-one discipleship. It will probably be both.
All of us face barriers in our relationship with God and our faith in general. The church is built to handle those moments. We can encourage, lovingly correct, and grow together.
We were all eager and excited to open churches and get back to worshipping together after being apart for so long. But if it’s “business as usual” we could miss the opportunity to make small, impactful changes that welcome people back to the church family and community. People who are coming back later than others want a chance to celebrate too! And really, we all love a good excuse to celebrate.
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:10
Your church became their church, now help them find their way around. Increase and encourage engagement with Tithe.ly All Access.