Get Creative With Evangelization
It is finally Spring in the Midwest – a time when people start coming out of their houses to enjoy the warmer weather, longer days, and resume outdoor activities. But Spring 2020 is much different. Streets are eerily empty. Restaurants, movie theaters, even churches are all closed. COVID-19 has arrived like an apocalyptic messenger, threatening everything we know.
In the last 4 or 5 weeks, people in many parts of the world have become effectively homebound, with loads of spare time. Many people are troubled by this sudden disruption in their daily routines, living in fear of what will happen next. We are all trying to figure out this new normal, which isn’t normal at all.
Sudden, unpredictable events like these are defining moments in our lives on earth. In my lifetime, I recall 9/11, which changed my oblivious belief that terrorism could never touch the U.S. I also remember the great eastern U.S. power outage of August 2003, when the cell phones had no signal, and gas prices shot up to over $5 a gallon. These events, like the current COVID-19 quarantine, have forced us to stop and consider what is essential.
Without the usually required activities to fill our days, many have begun to contemplate the bigger picture, asking questions like: If our society is so fragile that an unseen enemy can render it immobile, what am I here for, anyway?
Many people who didn’t have the time or inclination to consider such philosophical questions are now looking for answers. A University of Copenhagen professor found that internet searches related to prayer in 75 countries skyrocketed to their highest levels in five years in March. (Christianity Today, April 7, 2020)
The internet has become our primary way to connect to others due to our mandated isolation. It is a perfect opportunity for churches to up their online presence and to welcome those who need a lifeline.
Churches who have begun live-streaming their masses have experienced dramatic increases in mass attendance, albeit in virtual form. The New York Post reported that “viewership of the live-streamed Masses on St. Patrick’s website shot through the Cathedral’s vaulted ceiling, growing from 577 viewers on March 8 to 10,892 on March 15 to a whopping 26,116 on March 22.” New York Post, March 28, 2020
Church leaders can now reach the very people who are currently seeking them out. This scenario is a complete flip of the usual evangelization model. However, this season will not last forever. The human mind tends to relax back into comfortable patterns once a traumatic event has passed.
Pastors and church staff must reach out now and find those in search of meaning and meet them where they are on their spiritual journey. Here are some practical ideas to offer newcomers a warm welcome to your church community.
- As people join live-stream masses, reach out to them with a private welcome message, providing your email address or phone number to continue the conversation.
- Create a small group(s) of people who are new to your church or even new to worship altogether.
- Invite people to the next live-stream mass and set up a virtual coffee talk afterward to discuss what your faith means to you and answer any questions your guests may have.
- Many churches are beginning to host evangelization experiences such as Alpha® and ChristLife™ in an online format. If this is not occurring yet at your church, talk to your pastor or parish council about getting these events set up now so you can invite the influx of people who are hungry for conversation and have questions about God, religion, and spirituality.
The great news is that Mission Pathways can support you in these efforts with powerful software to capture each person’s basic contact information, religious affiliation, attendance, and much more. Engaging with people now who have questions is the best way to begin to evangelize this new audience. Watch a short video to learn how our Encounter module will improve your evangelization process.
Maybe this “catastrophe” isn’t hopeless after all. Maybe it took hitting the pause button in our lives to stop and grasp the hand that is reaching out to us in need.