In light of this major RESET in society we are all questioning what life will look like during and after the Corona virus. Churches are no different. Many have relied on programs and volunteers, keeping everyone busy with good works and having a wonderful time worshiping God. However, has society at large been impacted by Christian values and those practices to the extent that we see a reduction in crime, stronger families, robust economy, etc? The research suggests not. Of course, it is a good thing to feed and help clothe the poor, look after the widows, the fatherless and the homeless (Mt 25: 35 – 36; Js 1: 27). We are called to do those things. Although there are positives coming out of COVID-19, a problem shared by many churches is the reduced income. This is largely due to the parishioners from that church who have reduced incomes or loss of income due to unemployment or loss of business contracts and/or supporting loved ones in that situation. The remainder of this article will share a different perspective and reveal A Futurist’s Solution for a Sustainable Future for Your Church.
“A futurist is someone who studies the past and the present, identifies trends and possible futures, chooses the one that is most beneficial, then uses their skillset (gifts, experiences, qualifications) and agrees with others to bring about the desired future.”
The conversations during Corona seem to be that God is using this time of RESET for good. In fact, a by-product of the lockdown is that often families are forced to spend more together and even become closer in intimacy. Board games are even making a comeback! Families are seen walking and bike riding together.
One massive change is the move to online services with many churches reporting a huge increase in attendance with these. So, the first part of a Sustainability Plan must be to consider what your core business activities are and how to operate undertaking those core business activities. Then address short term and medium to longer term solutions to not only reduce expenses but also increase income.
The Imagineering 2 a Better World (IM2) strategy has very often been likened to bringing the Kingdom of God or Kingdom of Heaven to earth.
Imagine (Vision); Solution; Commit; Partner
With the underlying philosophy based on the four principles of: Vision (for the future); Character; Stewardship (of yourself and your resources, including but not limited to your finances); and Intimacy with God/Authenticity.
What does your better world look like for your church, during and post the Corona Virus?
I suggest that it must be more sustainable and be able to grow very quickly, that is even if there is a remote chance that many prophets are correct that we are coming into the Kingdom era and billion soul harvest.
So what does the Kingdom of Heaven / Kingdom of God look like? It is demonstrating kindness, goodness, perseverance, self-control, etc, as well as abundance and prosperity (Jn 10:10; 3 Jn 1:2) justice, and righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rm 14:17); where shalom peace means nothing missing, lacking or broken.
Short term if you are under crippling debt due to a mortgage on a church building, it may be to sell the property or to downsize. If however you are able and after prayer and wise counsel (including your leaders, seeking divine revelation, and professional advice in business, finance, banking and law for example), you are able to leverage your property, great. Examples to leveraging your church premises are many such as leasing out office space to professionals (perhaps not to other not-for-profits who cannot pay the rent if you are unable to support them and have your own bills to pay); renting out for events such as festivals and graduations, even parties; perhaps consider a niche that you may be able to fill. For example do you have beautiful grounds and can arrange to have weddings or wedding receptions or even music videos filmed there or do you have amazing acoustics and perhaps already have your own recording studio that could be rented out?
Additionally, again to reduce costs and increase income, offer excellent coffee and delicious and trendy snacks with GFO and Vegan options. Charge standard café prices after the church services (you may also offer a cheaper alternative for those who cannot afford it). In your bookshops, sell the items at retail prices.
Extensions on your existing services, I believe according to a Kingdom of God mindset, rather than a church not-for-profit model, to serve your congregation, includes some or all of the following:
1 Increase the employability skills and life skills of those people in your congregations such as providing courses that people pay for, even at reduced prices, on financial and emotional intelligences, life skills, budgeting and running a house, basics in micro and/or small business, cooking / nutrition, even learner driving, job readiness skills. Services could be provided at a capped 5 hours per week voluntary contribution or honorarium payment for professionals, or small business owners who offer these as part of their core business. Perhaps retirees could be encouraged to participate to share wisdom. IM2 suggests capping volunteer hours at 5 hours per week for various reasons unless the individual has a separate income stream and time available and then only for a limited time to be reviewed. This subject will be addressed in a future article.
2 Advertise job opportunities in your church or wider Christian circles to your congregation and networks. This could be via an addition in your newsletter or even advertisements on a physical noticeboard in your church once things are back to normality or via your website or social media.
3 Modify your volunteering policies and procedures to make it a win-win-win solution such as having position descriptions and duty statements where everything is run on a more excellent model and where volunteers receive certificates after a certain period that over time would come to be acknowledged in the wider community as part of one’s experience that could be included on a resume. Consider providing certified training for the baristas who serve in the café and even sponsor some people to do a Certificate III in Hospitality who serve in your hospitality team.
4 Practically support the businesses in your congregation. Not just through prayer which is vital for any Christian to succeed in business who aims to at least, financially support Kingdom projects. This may be encouraging business networking forums run by business people, not pastors. Give businesses the opportunity to showcase their products and services in particular events, or places in the wider church sphere. Again, this could be a noticeboard, selling books written by those in the congregation, co-hosting a book launch or music album launch.
By coming alongside those in your fellowship in practical ways such as empowering the individual to be more job ready or ready for promotion, giving a platform for a small business owner, it is more likely they will become more affluent and influential in the future. From a bottom line point of view it is more likely your church income will increase as those in your fellowship are increasing their levels of income.
5 Consider grants. There is so much available online regarding grants and it is outside the scope of this particular article.
6 Consider business or community partnerships. Work with the local community and even local government. See what needs your church can help provide solutions to. Perhaps there is a need for a day-care centre and your church building may be able to provide the premises or a school for second chance students from disadvantaged backgrounds who has the need for pastoral care assistance. There are wonderful models already in existence.
7 Consider starting a new business to support your church or community services or projects. Consider the gifts and talents of those in your specific congregation. One model for this could be that a certain number of people in your congregation commit to volunteering in the business say 5 hours per week. The profits could pay the bills for some church expenses or allocated projects. Shalom Works (landscaping business) supporting Shalom House drug treatment program is one such successful example.
Of course, a reminder that even in the concept stage, wise counsel is required to see what permits, etc are required.
In conclusion, even during COVID-19 or after it, you can choose to be part of a Kingdom of God/ Kingdom of Heaven solution for your church and community services. In this way as we are more sustainable and are honouring and empowering those in our congregations, we will become more attractive to the world and particularly through the more practical applications of Biblical truths people will be discipled. Jesus spoke often in the parables about fishing, agriculture, construction, government, and business, as he was mostly sharing about the Kingdom of Heaven with those in the marketplace. It is an exciting time to become better at this ourselves.
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To see how we can help you, contact us. In the initial stages it may be via hosting an Imagineering 2 a Better World think tank session with key stakeholders, then it could be working with you to create a detailed SMART plan to achieve your vision/s. Consulting is also available to come alongside your organisation to completion of the vision/s.