7 Observations On the State of the Church

Oct 1, 2020

Good news – Portable churches are meeting live again! 

It has still been slow in coming but the momentum can be felt across the country now. Like light at the end of this COVID tunnel, our team are being asked by church planters and multisite leaders about what seems to be working. Many have been waiting and watching as others ‘go first’… we are now feeling that others are optimistic and taking the next step.

So here are 7 observations from the world of today’s portable church!

1. The new front door

Digital is a HUGE new front door to your church. People investigating a church start digitally. They used to just check out the website. Now through social media, they have easy access to what your church and see what it ‘feels’ like through your streaming services. And churches have upped their digital game!

However, it has been made clear that digital is not going to permanently replace live. It lacks the full expression and power of the church body. There will always be something significant in gathering live that absolutely cannot be replaced. 

Looking forward: Do not fall back into the trap of making you digital audience a secondary focus. It’s a huge front door and a way many will continue to connect with you.

2. Be relevant more often than just on Sunday!

Churches are still seeing great success at connecting with the church through midweek ‘check ins’, vision casting and/or devotionals. Some have the lead pastor reaching out each week, mid-week, some mix it up having elders, other pastoral staff or leaders join in.

One church we spoke with recently talked about the great success they had individually calling their entire database to check in on everyone and they are planning to continue these check ins. They have been highly effective and is resulting in a deeper engagement by members and attenders alike.

Looking forward: Plan for a process of personal check in by phone, text or other form of communication throughout the year. Review the effectiveness regularly with the leadership team and be flexible as to what you want out of these touchpoints.

3. Digital is not naturally friendly to the friendly church

Some church leaders are ROCKSTARS at embracing those that walk through the doors and making them feel loved – like the long-lost friend they had not met yet.  A hospitality driven church or pastor who is gifted with warmth, personality, and genuine deep-felt hospitality may not have gifts that translate digitally over a streaming network.  

A church with a strong digital presence is likely aided by great performance – yes in worship, but even more so with the delivery of The Gospel. The problem is that there are a ton of performances for people to choose from.  

Looking forward:  To navigate the “phygital” balance well, churches are using the chat feature during services, having their best engagers asking deep/thoughtful questions, giving well thought answers, offering offline text connections to deepen budding relationships. A second yet equally effective opportunity is to host “First Time Visitor” digital classes – giving out $5-10 Starbucks cards (via the Starbucks APP). For example, if your church is strong in family ministry, continue emphasizing opportunities available through your digital channel. Drop off a note talking about being all about families and give them coupons to free sundaes at a local place for their family.

4. Consider new launch methods

Several church planting organizations are advocating that launching a new church digitally before physically is going to be a wave of the future. Simply put, a core team is developed using both face-to-face AND digital methods. That core team helps network and launch the digital expression. 

Geo-target the city through social channels:

  • Use to publicize what you are about and launch your interest meetings 
  • Use to showcase sample teaching
  • Launch digitally and build momentum and attendance size
  • After many months, then launch a physical expression

This is the Amazon strategy…. The church becomes well known and familiar digitally, and then launches a physical expression that is everything and more than the digital engagement promised. 

5. Churches burdened with debt are moving out and going portable

While this offers a “church reset” of sorts, it also has great potential of reactivating people that have been lost in the pews.

6. Churches that were portable going permanent

While this makes our Portable Church Team sad… we also get excited that the portability strategy has been successful at developing great momentum – enough to plant long lasting roots!  

The COVID Crisis has changed things. Some of those changes are good and some just are not!  The real estate market for newly available commercial properties will see an up-tick as some businesses just won’t survive.  Likewise, and unfortunately, some churches won’t survive as well. To that end, it is being forecasted that there will be an increased number of churches that will merge, most of which will involve worship facilities of some sort.

Many well-managed churches will be able to respond appropriately and make the jump into better facilities or into a multisite strategy.  

7. Considering the venue as a tool

Soon, we will launch another blog that addresses various venue types that are working well when schools are just not available. The adage is true, “necessity is the mother of invention!” The need to meet again is getting churches to become innovative… thinking outside the box. Indeed, some facility-types (High School, Middle School, YMCA, Theater) are more ideal for meeting spaces. However, as these natural rental facilities aren’t available churches are considering and finding some amazing alternatives.

The shutdown has prompted many leaders in the church to consider the effectiveness of their ministry. There have been changes in leadership, ministry methods, discipleship, and evangelistic outreach. In some cases, there have been wholesale changes to financial fitness and the role that property plays as tools in the ministry.  On the journey back to “normal” (whatever that was), churches are evaluating it all!  As Peyton Jones from Exponential states “Churches are still born out of a desire to draw a crowd, but the future belongs not to churches that can draw a crowd, but churches that can penetrate one.” 

What do you think? What are you seeing as new trends and future trends? Comment below!