I’ve made a few investments over the years that didn’t pan out the way I thought they would. While in college, I invested a significant amount of money (at least it was for this starving college student back in the day) in a Canadian company at the advice of a classmate whose mother traded stocks regularly. He’d gotten a tip from her that this company’s stock, when it went public, was going to appreciate rapidly. I took $1500 of my hard-earned money and invested it in this company. Much to my dismay, the company never went public and I lost those dollars that could have been spent on books and tuition. It turned out to be a poor investment. I learned my lesson. Let’s consider making a much better kind of investment – the kind that we can make in our churches. Financial investments in God’s work will never disappoint like the one I made in college. When will your church reopen? Have you set a date? Are the members of your church eagerly anticipating coming back together for worship like the people at my church are? Even now we are making plans and putting guidelines in place that will allow us to reopen as safely as possible. During all the excitement about reopening the campus, there are many things to consider. Here are 5 COVID-19 investments your church could (or should) make now:
- New technology. When COVID-19 and physical distancing mandates made it impossible for our churches to meet for worship and Bible study, we (the church) pivoted quickly. Many of our churches began using tools like Facebook Live for the first time to broadcast our worship services to the members of our churches. My church has done this with an iPad and a few audio cables. But now we have invested in cameras that are capable of producing a much higher quality video. New people have discovered our church on the internet, and we want to continue serving them well even after we return to the building. Another purchase that churches are making is the technology that will allow classrooms to become “Zoom Rooms.” Bible study groups have increased in attendance during our COVID-19 sequestering. If rooms are equipped with large flat screen televisions and the appropriate cables, a group that has used Zoom to study and meet together online can continue serving those who are hesitant to return to the church campus. The group can also serve absent members (absent because of work, travel, and illness) plus the people who have come into the group online and are either not ready for an on-campus visit, or who live too far to make an on-campus visit practical.
- Cleaning & sanitizing. If I asked you “Who is your church’s competition?” I imagine you would tell me about a church down the street. That would be a wrong answer! Neighborhood Wal-mart and Taco Bell are now your church’s most dangerous competition. You might ask, “How can that be?” Allow me to illustrate. Last week when my wife and I went grocery shopping, the store employee greeted us wearing a mask. She gave us a shopping cart that she sterilized while we watched. She wiped down the seat and handle, then presented it to us. My wife was impressed. Then there was the night we made a Taco Bell run for a snack. The store employee at the drive-through window wore a mask, too, and held the credit card scanner out the window. I inserted my card, and when it was approved, I placed the card back in my wallet. Our hands never touched. “Impressive,” I said to my wife. Then I realized that these two companies (and there are plenty of other examples) have raised my expectations about what “clean” is. They are communicating that they care about their customer’s safety and health. All of this to say, your competition is now any company that raises the expectations of your congregation regarding cleaning and sanitizing. Your competition is no longer the church down the road. Can you reopen with a new level of cleaning and sanitizing weekly? If not, you may want to invest significant dollars in this category.
- Training. The answer is absolutely! Not all groups may want to return to your church campus, and those that do may still want to stay online. Teaching online is different than teaching a group in person. Churches will need to provide new kinds of training for group leaders to continually improve and utilize online meeting tools to the fullest. This may mean bringing in an outside expert to help, and that costs money. Another investment in training will be time. Because of online meeting tools, churches that have had no plan for training can now provide online training for group leaders while making it extremely convenient. I have been recruited to be one of 20+ trainers for FBC Richardson, TX. Keith Lowry is the church’s discipleship pastor and has arranged weekly Zoom training for his group leaders. Over the next 22 weeks, outside experts will be utilized by Keith to train his leaders. He has recruited friends, practitioners, and denominational leaders to lead the training each week. Many churches have not had a plan for training because the thought has been, “No one will come.” Now the training can go to them, and at a time and in a way that is convenient.
- Disposable masks, cleaning supplies, and professional services. My church (I’m on staff part-time) has encouraged all members and guests to wear a mask when we return for worship (following our governor’s guidelines for reopening houses of worship, the CDC, and our state’s department of health guidelines). Our 9AM worship service will be a “masks required” service; the 10:30AM service is “masks optional.” Did the church staff on which I serve want to invest in boxes of disposable masks? Not at all. Did we make that investment? Yes we did. Your church may choose a different approach, but this investment had to be made sooner than later or we would not have the masks in time to reopen. We’ve also purchased cleaning supplies and we’ve had the church deep cleaned by a local company.
- Benevolence ministry. The answer will vary from church to church. As unemployment rises because of COVID-19, your church and mine will find that members, guests, and people from the community who’ve never attended a worship service will find themselves with significant financial needs. I hope that things improve rapidly as the economy begins to come back to life. Unemployment will drop as businesses reopen and people return to work. But in the months following the reopening of the church, new financial investments in a benevolence ministry may be what is needed to meet people’s needs when they turn to the church for help.
Yes, some investments don’t pan out. But making an investment in God’s ongoing work in the world yields dividends in eternity. I pray that your church is ready to reopen safely, and that you are already considering making financial investments in your church’s various ministries as you reopen.