GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Only 8 percent of young U.S. Catholics said their faith was weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic, but nearly one-third expect to attend Mass less often after the pandemic than they had before.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This research by our Catholic colleagues supports previous research that people under the age of 55 say they are less likely to attend an on-site church in the future, preferring online church instead. Take note of this corroborating research. Then strengthen your online ministry – because that is where most of the younger generations are building relationships.

Survey: A third of young Catholics expect to attend Mass less often after the pandemic

by Robert David Sullivan, America: The Jesuit Review, November 10, 2021

Only 8 percent of young U.S. Catholics (ages 18 to 35) said their faith was weakened by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a national survey released on Nov. 9 by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, but nearly one-third expect to attend Mass less often after the pandemic than they had before. Perhaps of greater concern to the church, 73 percent agreed “somewhat” or “strongly” that they could be a good Catholic without going to Mass every Sunday. And only 39 percent agreed “somewhat” or “strongly” that they could never imagine themselves leaving the Catholic Church.

The survey indicated that 13 percent of Catholic young adults attended Mass at least once a week before the Covid-19 pandemic, and 6 percent of respondents said they had been “very” involved with parish activities other than attending Mass. The crisis of Catholic clergy sexually abusing minors was the most frequently given reason for not being more active in parish life.

Read more at … https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/11/10/cara-survey-young-american-catholics-241803?

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & A chart showing what is happening every second on the Internet. #DataNeverSleeps2

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: If you ever wondered what the new communication tool is, then take a look at this chart depicting what happens every minute on the Internet. When I was growing up people used to use the phrase “… in a New York minute.” And they meant that this was not really a minute, but maybe only about 15 seconds because New Yorkers were known at that time for being impatient and quick to do, what they wanted to do.

But today an “Internet minute” reminds us that every minute people are communicating through dozens of different platforms or what we would call in communication theory: communication conduits.

Are you using these conduits to share the Good News?

Take a look at how much communication is going on in each and ask yourself, “Maybe we should be using some of these new conduits to share the Good News.

In an Internet Minute, Way Too Much is Happening All the Time

The numbers of internet searches, posts, messages, uploads, and dollars spent that take place every sixty seconds are utterly, ludicrously staggering.

By Eric Griffith, PC Magazine, 9/30/21.

…Here’s the full chart for 2021, including a look at the population of internet users in total, which is currently at 5.2 billion people.

For more, you can check out the last 8 yearsof Domo’s Data Never Sleeps charts

SOCIAL MEDIA & Going to church in virtual reality: examples, ideas & cautions

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D.,  I once was skeptical about the depth of community that could be created online. But having taught graduate courses online (as well as onsite) for over 20 years, I’ve come to believe online community can be very personable and deep.

And so, I’ve come to see online churches as another campus or venuethrough which to spread the Good News. Granted, it still has its weaknesses as does every type of venue, but it also has a potentiality that the strategic leader must not overlook.

7 weaknesses I have identified of online venues include (but also often occur in live venues):

  1. Hubris that comes from being personality-driven
  2. Focus on receiving and not giving
  3. Accountability eclipsed by entertainment
  4. Technology drives expenditures
  5. Disenfranchised continue to be marginalized/ignored
  6. Reconciliation takes more effort
  7. Spiritual transformation is downplayed

Recently I had the opportunity to pull together speakers for the annual conference of the Great Commission Research Network. These were speakers who had experience leading online churches. You can find more information from the conference at these links:

SOCIAL MEDIA & Questions to stimulate discussion on how churches can more effectively utilize social media.

SOCIAL MEDIA & #NathanClark the leader of one of the nation’s first online communities tells the best thing a small church can do to connect & minister online

In addition one of my students from Kingswood University in Canada has started a church with her husband that includes an online service. Find more info about their multiplication strategy here: SOCIAL MEDIA & How a Toronto church plant uses gaming site Twitch to create online bible studies & community

Finally, here is a good video from CNN that gives a introduction to online churches.//fave.api.cnn.io/v1/fav/?video=us/2018/11/13/going-to-church-in-virtual-reality-beme.beme&customer=cnn&edition=domestic&env=prod

You can also view the CNN video here: https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2018/11/13/going-to-church-in-virtual-reality-beme.beme

SUNDAY CHURCH HACKS & On your onsite and online “communication card” start by asking for prayer requests (rather than asking the person for contact information). Contact info can follow, but show the person you are putting their needs first, rather than a need for information.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Hurting people who are seeking you out, may not yet be ready to share identifiable data. On your “connection card” (virtual or hard copy) do not require …

  • phone numbers
  • email addresses
  • physical addresses
  • even names

You can ask for this information, but do not make it required (usually identified by an asterisk “*” .

Click on the picture below to enlarge an example from a client. This example includes changes to make a communication card more focused on the needs of others.

#GuestServices101 #ChurchGuests101

eREFORMATION & 25 Post-Pandemic Church Statistics You Need to Know for 2021 #ReachRightStudios #GrowingThePostPandemicChurch

Table of contents

Read more at … https://reachrightstudios.com/25-church-statistics-for-2021/#h-1-non-practicing-christians-are-on-the-rise

COMMUNICATION & SOCIAL MEDIA USE IN 2021: Facebook and YouTube are the two most used platforms among older populations, but here’s how the under 35 crowd is communicating. #eReformation

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: During the pandemic many churches have started to use Facebook and YouTube to stream their services and communicate with their congregants. And this is a good strategy to communicate with existing churchgoers.

Most of the younger generations are less frequent in their church going than their parents. And, they don’t communicate through Facebook or YouTube. They know that’s where the older generations are and they typically avoid them.

The under 30 crowd typically uses media forms such as Instagram, Snapchat and TickTock. Check out this article to find what they are listening to and then communicate through them.

Social Media Use in 2021

A majority of Americans say they use YouTube and Facebook, while use of Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok is especially common among adults under 30.

By BROOKE AUXIER and MONICA ANDERSON, Pew Research, April 7, 2021.

Despite a string of controversies and the public’s relatively negative sentiments about aspects of social media, roughly seven-in-ten Americans say they ever use any kind of social media site – a share that has remained relatively stable over the past five years, according to a new Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults.

Growing share of Americans say they use YouTube; Facebook remains one of the most widely used online platforms among U.S. adults

Beyond the general question of overall social media use, the survey also covers use of individual sites and apps. YouTube and Facebook continue to dominate the online landscape, with 81% and 69%, respectively, reporting ever using these sites. And YouTube and Reddit were the only two platforms measured that saw statistically significant growth since 2019, when the Center last polled on this topic via a phone survey.

When it comes to the other platforms in the survey, 40% of adults say they ever use Instagram and about three-in-ten report using Pinterest or LinkedIn. One-quarter say they use Snapchat, and similar shares report being users of Twitter or WhatsApp. TikTok – an app for sharing short videos – is used by 21% of Americans, while 13% say they use the neighborhood-focused platform Nextdoor.

Even as other platforms do not nearly match the overall reach of YouTube or Facebook, there are certain sites or apps, most notably Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, that have an especially strong following among young adults. In fact, a majority of 18- to 29-year-olds say they use Instagram (71%) or Snapchat (65%), while roughly half say the same for TikTok.

Read more at … https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2021/04/07/social-media-use-in-2021/

STREAMING & #SundayChurchHacks: Make sure links on your #streaming page open in another tab and do not stop the streaming. See this example …

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Watching a client’s streaming today, I noticed three nicely placed buttons that say …

Clicking on any of the three boxes above results in ending the streaming playback and exiting to another webpage. This would be analogous for someone in a face-to-face service taking a “connection card” and starting to fill it out; only to have the entire worship service stop, the preacher stop preaching and everything put on hold until the attendee has finished filling out the connection card.

The solution is to have:

  • A “feedback” button where people watching the streaming service can give you input.
  • Ask your staff and leaders to semi-regularly watch the service online to stop such missteps.

For more ideas about communicating in the new reality of the eReformation, see the book:

NEED-MEETING CHURCH & Researchers find almost 75% of the population suffer one or more of these crises each year.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel, 9/21/21. A colleague of mind, Flavil Yeakley, found that crises often lead a person to making a commitment to Christ and accepting Him as their savior.

But, how many people go through these crises every year? Almost 3 out of 4 people (almost 74%) according to the Findings from the Baylor Religion Survey, Wave 5:

B. Faith in Times of Stress
By Renae Wilkinson

“We asked survey respondents about events in their lives in order to gain some insight into how troubled times affect the stress and resilience of Americans. Over a third of our respondents experi- enced the death of a loved one in the past 12 months (Figure 47 (next page)). The next most preva-lent stressful event (13%) was the experience that one ‘failed at something important’ last year. Few people had a crisis of faith and even fewer respondents got a divorce last year.”

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“Interestingly, while many Americans experienced the death of a loved one last year, many did not find this is extremely stressful (Figure 48). Perhaps the death was expected or even welcome depending on the health and age of the loved one. While divorce was rarer, it ranked as the most stressful of events for Americans who experienced it.”

Download the entire report here: https://www.baylor.edu/baylorreligionsurvey/doc.php/292546.pd

#GPPCseminar

#COG-Anderson

DRIVE TIMES & Baylor University researchers discover most churchgoers will only drive less than 15 minutes to a church. #BaylorUniversity #GrowingThePostPandemicChurch #Seminar

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Previously geography dictated a church’s size and potential for growth as per this research on face-to-face churchgoers.  

Not any more.

Now churches everywhere can overcome the “geographic wall” to attendance by developing their online ministry. In my book Growing the Post-pandemic Church I list tools and plans to accomplish this.

Drive times to church for face-to-face attendees are:

5 min or less = 21 %

6 – 15 min = 47 %. 

16 – 30 min = 22% 

30+ min = 9 %.

AMERICAN VALUES, MENTAL HEALTH, AND USING TECHNOLOGY IN THE AGE OF TRUMP, Findings from “Church Commuting” by Kevin D. Dougherty, Baylor Religion Survey, Wave 5 , 9/2017 (https://www.baylor.edu/baylorreligionsurvey/doc.php/292546.pdf)

Find more ideas in the book Growing the Post-pandemic Church available in paperback and Kindle …

https://www.amazon.com/Growing-Post-pandemic-Church-Leadership-church-Guides/dp/B08FK8VMWS

#GPPCseminar

#GPPC

GROWING THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & Churches Grapple With The Vaxxed And Unvaxxed Divide

by Blake Farmer, NPR, 5/16/21.

… Even as the most vulnerable have pretty well gotten their COVID-19 shots in Nashville, Temple Church still hasn’t returned to in-person worship services.

Many congregations in Nashville — especially those with predominantly Black members — have taken a more conservative approach to getting back together. And no government regulations are stopping them.

The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey Leath is the bishop overseeing African Methodist Episcopal churches in Tennessee and Kentucky. While many have held vaccination events for members, almost all worship — on the bishop’s recommendation — has remained virtual.

… So if A.M.E. congregations want to go back to in-person gatherings, he’s still requiring masks for everyone, no hugs or handshakes, and — critically — no maskless singing.

Relegating unvaccinated members in the balcony — or some other segregating policy — just doesn’t feel right to most church leaders. But some are willing to draw a distinction between the vaxxed and the unvaxxed.

… At Acklen Avenue Church of Christ in Nashville, preacher J.P. Conway greets members as they arrive with some instructions.

“If you’re vaccinated and you’d like to take your mask off when we sing, feel free,” he tells them, directing everyone to the church lawn. 

Conway says he never wanted anyone to feel too much pressure. But people started volunteering that they’d gotten the shot. So he began giving weekly updates in Sunday school on Zoom and then from the pulpit — like a church might do with the weekly offering.

“We were basically telling people what percentage of our church had been vaccinated every week,” he says. “So that was an indirect way of saying, ‘we think you should all do this.'”

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2021/05/16/996858744/houses-of-worship-grapple-with-the-vaxxed-and-unvaxxed-divide?

If you would like to discover best practices for Growing the Post-pandemic Church check out the book here: https://www.amazon.com/Growing-Post-pandemic-Church-Leadership-church-Guides/dp/

STREAMING & one of today’s #SundayChurchHacks: Have a “trouble shooting FAQ” button w/ a list of common video problems. While analyzing a client the streaming feed quit. Other online attendees (the chat room still functioned) figured out a work around. But some of us lost 10+ minutes.

See more ideas in the chapter: “Best practices in streaming services” in Growing the Post-pandemic Church.

COMMUNICATION & Today’s #SundayChurchHacks: When you’ve been away (but still watching online) don’t say ‘It is good to be back’ from the stage when you return in person. It makes the online congregation feel second class. Instead say, “It is good to be with you again this week.”

Read about innovative strategies in Growing the Post-pandemic Church.

eReformation & Here is how an associate pastor is effectively ministering to a Boston congregation from her home, 3000 miles away in California.

By Paul Leighton, 11/18/20, The Salem News.

… The First Baptist Church in Beverly (MA) has hired a new minister from California. And it won’t have to pay her moving costs.

The Rev. Jaimie Crumley has been hired as a “virtual minister.” Since coming on board, she’s been preaching at online Sunday services and meeting with church members via Zoom without leaving her home in Inglewood, California.

“It is definitely unusual, especially living all the way across the country,” Crumley said. “It’s not like I run into people in the grocery store.”

Like many churches, the First Baptist Church has been holding services on-line during the pandemic. The Rev. Julie Flowers, one of the First Baptist’s two senior ministers, said virtual ministry is likely to continue in some form or another even after it is safe to resume in-person services. So when it came time to hire an associate minister, they decided to make it a full-time virtual position.

“It opened up possibilities that in-person ministry doesn’t,” Flowers said. “We posted it saying this candidate could live anywhere as long as they could work on the Eastern time zone. We got candidates from all over the country.”

Flowers said Crumley, 30, was a great candidate because of her “dexterity in the virtual space,” including experience with podcasting.

…Crumley grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and is now working on her PhD in the department of gender studies at UCLA. She’s a graduate of Wellesley College and Yale Divinity School, where she was awarded the Mersick Prize for effective public address.

Crumley said she is trying to create as many “touchstones” as possible to get to know First Baptist Church members. She has chatted with people on Zoom coffee hours after Sunday services and hosted a virtual blessing of the animal services. She’s planning to do a weekly podcast based on the church’s theme for the year, “The Journey is Our Home.”

Read more at … https://www.salemnews.com/news/local_news/virtual-minister-preaches-from-afar/article_f4dc3824-59a9-5513-9c38-28d8e2f4afc6.html

RECONCILIATION & My article “Racial Healing or Reopening? How to do Both Well” published by @BiblicalLeader Magazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Nov 15, 2020.

I have been taken aback by how two crises happened at the same time. First there was the pandemic. Then on top of that was the call for racial justice and healing. However, I noticed that usually researchers/writers wrote on one topic or the other. But I thought, they are inextricably connected. Leaders are talking about reopening their churches with new safety protocols. But we should also be talking about reopening our churches with new intercultural protocols too.

But what we’re not doing is addressing sufficiently yet the racial divide in North America. If we are going to reopen with a changed church, let’s change more than the cleanliness. Let’s begin to clean our hearts and souls from racial division.

In fact, the Apostle Paul tells us we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). He describes this ministry of reconciliation as between God and humans AND between humans and one other. You see, Paul was reaching out to the Gentiles. And they were the persecutors of the Jews. The Jews had a lot of qualms about reaching out to the Gentiles. These were their oppressors. These were their enemies, the occupiers of the Jewish homeland who abused and killed innocent people because of racial hatred. And Paul is reaching out to them and seeing Christ change them! That is the background behind Paul’s description of our ministry of reconciliation. He sees the Church as bringing divergent groups together while also bringing we who are estranged from God, back to God.

Look at how Paul describes it in the contemporary language of The Message Bible:

POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH & An overview of Rainer & Whitesel’s advice on growing the post-pandemic church.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. In this article, a colleague described how much Thom and I agree on the future of the church. And though I purposely don’t read Rainer’s (or other Christian leaders’) writings on a topic when writing my own analysis, I am always happy to see so much agreement. I admire Thom’s intellect and influence. We go way back, to when I was the president of the Great Commission Research Network and Thom received the McGavran Award from that association at its annual conference held that year at Indiana Wesleyan University. When someone you admire so much agrees with you, you feel blessed and bolstered.

Leadership Thought: What the Post-Pandemic Church May Look Like

Dear Friends,

The church has changed more in the last year than at any time in the past 100 years, and it will continue to change according to those who study church trends. The Covid 19 pandemic has radically transformed the way we do church, and some of the change that has been wrought within the church may be more than just  temporary  interruptions; they may become permanent in naturel. In reading and listening to those who make a study of the church, there are a some changes that many of them agree on, and this morning I would like to share some of them.

Church change will happen faster than ever before. Our world is in a time of rapid change, and because of this  people are more open to change than ever before. If the church has been considering making major changes in its ministry, including staffing or  facilities, now is the time to do it as there will be less resistance to change than ever before.
“The core of the church will grow stronger and the fringe of the church will become looser,” was a statement I heard expressed on a recent pod cast. In plain terms, there will be a winnowing of the church. Some who have been attendees will not be coming back. It has been suggested that one third of the church will return, one third is still evaluating their return and one third may never return.

The church will simplify. There will be a concentration on doing a few things well rather than offering a lot of varied programs and services.
There will be a greater focus on training the laity to do ministry and the result will be more trained laymen  filling key leadership roles in the church. This certainly is a good thing for it is in keeping with the equipping mandate given the church in Eph. 4:11-12.

There will be an increase in bi vocational pastors who will split their time between secular work and church responsibilities.There will be a major shift in staff alignments as some  pastors will be leaving the ministry as a result of what has been called “decision and opinion fatigue.” This is a stretching time for pastors and with many of them being taken out of their comfort zones,  some may choose to explore other vocations.

There will be less of an emphasis on academic degrees and more emphasis placed on online certification. This has already been happening and seminaries are presently being forced to change their traditional ways of doing education. Those looking for pastors will be more interested in past certification and personal experience than in a seminary degree.

Younger pastors will be leading churches, simply because many of them will have the technical experience to function more comfortably in our fast-changing digital  world.There will be a greater emphasis  on the development of small groups within the church which will meet for study, training and mutual support  and which will often align themselves around a particular mission or para church ministry.

There will be a more churches closing or being adopted by larger and healthier churches. The concept of “fostering churches” will become a reality, and stronger churches will support smaller churches by training and equipping its leaders.There will be fewer senior or lead pastors heading up churches as many of them will choose to lead smaller or “micro churches” of 30-40 people. The church “will grow horizontally” as different small groups or micro churches are formed, and it will “shrink vertically” as larger churches see  diminishing number of attenders. 
Denominations will continue to decline,  something that has been happening for many years, but with the pandemic, the decline will be accentuated.

Big attractional church events and major productions will diminish in significance unless churches are able to plan them to maximize opportunities for relationship building, something that today’s younger attenders are seeking. 

The church will find new ways to educate, train and nurture those families who choose to  insulate themselves from normal church activities by doing “church at home.”

There will be an emphasis on training church members to do ministry  in their respective neighborhoods. Small groups may coalesce around ministries specific  to their neighborhoods. For more information see The Art of Neighboring-Building Relationships by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon.

Some larger churches with significant size facilities may be forced to rent out parts of their building to both church and or non-church  programs. Some churches will experience shrinking income with diminishing memberships, as government stimulus support is eliminated.
The church will discover new and innovative ways to reach out and better serve their communities. 

All of the above are not givens and the post pandemic church may turn out to be a lot more similar to the church as we know than some of the changes church experts are portending. Only God know what the church will look like, but one thing we know is that it is Christ who has built the church foundation and His promise is that “the gates of hell shall never prevail against .Whatever form or shape the church takes, it’s  goal will always remain the same as the goal of its Master-“to go into the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe everything I have commanded,…..’remembering,” I am with you always to the end of the world.”

For more information on the thoughts above you might with to check out Thom Ranier’s The Post Quarantine Church or Growing the Post-Pandemic Church by Bob Whitesel.

Yours in faith and friendship, Tom 

ONLINE CHURCH & Research finds mature Christians will return to in-person worship. Yet “seekers” are more likely to attend online worship. “Growing the Post-pandemic Church” in paperback & Kindle on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Bob-Whitesel/ my #14thBook. #Post-PandemicChurchBook.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Looking into this Pew research it is clear to me that while faithful parishioners will be back in-person once the pandemic is over, it is “the seekers” who are more likely to seek online worship. Therefore in the future a healthy church that reaches out to unchurched people must have a robust online ministry. This is why I call it the eReformation.

“Will the coronavirus permanently convert in-person worshippers to online streamers? They don’t think so” by Alan Cooperman, Pew Research, 8/17/20.

… most U.S. adults overall say that when the pandemic is over, they expect to go back to attending religious services in person as often as they did before the coronavirus outbreak.How we did this

Few expect pandemic to permanently alter their religious worship routines

To be sure, a substantial share of Americans (43%) say they didn’t attend religious services in person before the pandemic struck and they don’t plan to start going to a church or other house of worship when it’s all over. But 42% of U.S. adults say they plan to resume going to religious services about as often as they did before the outbreak, while 10% say they will go more often than they used to, and just 5% anticipate going less often.

Read more at … https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/08/17/will-the-coronavirus-permanently-convert-in-person-worshippers-to-online-streamers-they-dont-think-so/