9 Realities for the Post-COVID Church

9 Realities for the Post-COVID Church

Like Nehemiah prayerfully inspecting the city walls before calling people to rise up and build, leaders need to be aware of their surroundings, paying special attention to how things are changing. 

And they are changing fast.

But as we look to the future, here are some of my thoughts about what has changed and what will keep changing in the post-COVID church.

#1 – You must think beyond Sundays and streaming.

Before COVID, pastors loved to preach that the church was not a building. Now more than ever, our people need to realize that ministry isn’t limited to Sunday and how we show up in culture must move beyond a stream.

In many ways, we have MORE opportunities to reach people – at home, at work, and at non-Sunday times.

Let’s stop creating content exclusively for Sunday or live streams and start creating multi-channel content to use intentionally throughout the week.

#2 – It’s going to be tough to re-engage your volunteers. 

There are a lot of volunteers who aren’t ready to come back to serve. Maybe they are at risk.  Maybe they are acting in someone’s best interest. Maybe they are risk-averse. It is what it is – and piling on the guilt isn’t going to change their minds. It will just make it worse. 

But there are others who have just gotten used to not serving on Sundays. They have created new patterns. You’re going to lovingly have to help them adopt new patterns. And this will challenge your leadership skills more than you can imagine.

Don’t think that everyone who served in your children’s ministry before is ready and willing to come back to the children’s ministry when it’s time.

Some aren’t ready to come back to serve. Others have gotten used to not serving.

Even though this course was created before COVID, the three-step framework in it (recruit – train – pastor) will help you engage and re-engage your volunteer base. You can get it included with membership.

#3 – There’s a new front door.

Your church service used to be the front door, the way most people experienced your church for the first time. This is why “invite a friend” worked so well. 

Then, we realized people visited our websites before they ever visited a service, and we made changes there. We shifted the point of our website to be focused on new people and added “plan a visit” language, which was a good step.

But things have shifted again. Now, people first experience your church by what they see and hear on social media. You can influence this, but you don’t control all of it. 

So, what do you do? Start by sharing helpful content online and using it to build trust over time.  Talk about things that are important to people in your community (not just things that are important to you). Build an audience (and an email list) of people who may not be ready to plan a visit but still want personal and practical guidance.

Here’s a tool that will help you do this.

#4 – It’s time to make (or re-make) a strategic plan.

Leaders love to talk about casting vision as a way to get everyone on the same page.

The problem is that people can agree on the destination but disagree wildly on the process. You see, it’s actually strategy that gets people working together toward the same goal.

And since everything is different now, it’s time to create a good plan.  A plan that is short. A plan that is specific. And a plan that has time to work.

#5 – Staff transitions will continue.

Churches will continue to see transitions, some out of financial necessity and others out of opportunity. And nearly everyone working on staff at a church is doing things now that they weren’t hired to do originally.

Keep repurposing people, making sure their actual job responsibilities line up with the current reality. Maybe you need to shift more leaders and volunteers in a digital direction. Maybe you need to intentionally slow down funding some areas or hoping they return to normal. At any rate, embrace change.

All of these transitions will make people tired and could quickly lead to burnout. We have a resource called The Tired Team that will help you create clarity and encourage the people who are working so hard to make the mission happen.

One other quick note on teams that is always true but feels extra relevant: Put your best people on your biggest opportunities, not your biggest problems.  

#6 – Keep building financial margin.

It’s always wise to have financial margin, and I know you already feel this. 

Even if you need to stop doing some things or hold off on an opportunity, margin now will give you more opportunities later.  

Most churches should start with 3-6 months of total operating expenses in reserve. Some need more.  

#7 – Keep the digital pivots.

Some of the changes you’ve made over the last year should stick around, even as people begin to physically return to church. 

Those decisions made out of necessity will turn out to be catalysts for growth in the future.  

For example, an online membership class could continue to be a way to get new people connected. It might be better, more efficient, and more accessible to new people. Bobby and Meagan talked about this on this episode of the Church Fuel Podcast (available on Apple, Spotify, and Stitcher).

Don’t just go back to the old way if the new way works better.

#8 – Don’t make gathering, regathering, or getting back to normal the goal.

The churches who long to go back to the good old days will not lead their people there.

First of all, it was a largely romanticized view of how well things were working in the past. Secondly, it discounts the new direction and new opportunities God may be giving your church.

Regathering in and of itself is a weak goal. Think bigger. 

#9 – Be willing to change the model.

No ministry model works forever.

The thing you figured out 20 years ago that made so much sense at the time may have run its course. And while the purpose of your church will stay the same no matter what happens in culture, your current mission, strategy, events, and programs should change with the times.

What’s Next?

I’m not a doomsday believer and I’m not prognosticating the end of the church, because God’s church has been around for 2,000 years and nothing will stop it.  

I’m not going to let the stats or trends dissuade me from believing the local church is important and the work you do matters. I’m not out here predicting the demise and fall of God’s plan A for spreading the Gospel.

But as things change, we will continue to equip you with strategy, best practices, and insanely practical resources to help you lead.

One of the best places to start is creating a FREE Church Fuel account, where you can access several webinars, resources, and courses to help you lead your church to healthy growth.

How to Get People to Come Back to Church

How to Get People to Come Back to Church

Navigating the rules, timing, and strategy is tough enough.

But even when you’ve worked out all of the official details, encouraging people to come back to the physical church service will be an uphill climb.

You will have members who, for one reason or another, are not ready to physically re-engage with church services. And to be brutally honest, many of your people will have gotten used to simply not attending.  

Then there are people in the community, the people you were trying to reach before COVID, and the people you’re still trying to invite. It was difficult connecting with this audience last year…now it’s an even bigger challenge.

So here you are, with a carefully constructed reopening plan in place, about to embark on one of your biggest challenges: asking people to come back to church.

I want to give you several practical ideas and steps you can follow.

But before I get to the steps, I do want to pause and ask a question about the question we’re asking.

How do we get people to come back to church?

Because you’re thoughtful, you’ve probably already considered this question. But let’s push on it a little more.

Carey Nieuwhof predicts: “Churches that love their model more than the mission will die.” Those are strong words, but I think Carey is right.

For years, attractional churches have focused on gathering and then driving people to small groups, volunteer teams, or more relational environments where discipleship can happen. For the most part, church engagement has started with service attendance. There’s nothing wrong with this model.

But COVID, at least temporarily, has flipped this on its head. 

Maybe getting people back into the building for a big Sunday service is the wrong goal. Maybe returning to pre-COVID attendance levels is the wrong goal.

It’s not that gathering is bad or out of style or will never be a thing again  But it could be that there’s an opportunity hidden in this pandemic.

I love what J.D. Greear, the pastor of Summit Church, says:

“We are going to gather, it’s just not going to be in large groups of 500 to 1000 on the weekend in our facilities. Instead of The Summit Church being 12,000 people meeting in 12 different locations on the weekend, now we are going to be about 15,000 people meeting in about 2,400 locations.”

Finally, even if people are not ready to return to a large physical church service, it doesn’t mean you can’t devise and execute a strategy to reach them.

It requires new thinking, a new approach, and maybe some new leaders in new roles, but you can absolutely reach people without a big Sunday morning service acting as the front door.

But still, you came here to read about how to get people to return to church. So I’ve got practical advice for you and some practical steps you can take.

How to Get People to Return to Church After COVID

When you’ve wrestled through all of the philosophy and opportunity and are ready to undertake the uphill battle of encouraging people to come back to church, here’s what you should do.

#1 – Make it about the kids.

For the past year or so, our church has not been gathering. 

And to be honest, I’ve actually enjoyed watching the livestream from my kitchen while making bacon and scrambled eggs. The coffee pot is nearby and I can refill my coffee cup in a matter of seconds. Plus, the music isn’t too loud.

And since our small group has still been meeting, I’ve been okay. Yes, I miss a lot of things about going to church on Sunday morning, but it’s been alright.

But what I’ve absolutely hated is not being able to go with the family. I miss the fact that our high school daughter hasn’t been able to volunteer with the three-year-olds. I miss that my middle schooler’s small group hasn’t been meeting in person as much. Gathering for services and small groups has been so helpful to their spiritual lives, and it hasn’t been the same.

Many people feel this way too. Kids have always been a driving factor for adults being involved in church.

That’s why when you’re ready to go big with asking everyone to come back, make it about the kids. Lean into language that emphasizes the importance of kids being with small group leaders and teachers and positive examples. Lean into the relationships that have been put on the back burner for too long.

Andrew Brown from Ministry Spark says, “You cannot afford to not have an option for families when you reopen.”

Andrew is right, but I’d even take it a step further. You should FOCUS on your options for families, even at the expense of adult programming.

We know some churches that are ONLY reopening kid and student environments, using all of the facilities to provide more space to distance. 

#2 – Focus on community, not content.

Reports from a recent Gallop Study show American’s mental health ratings have sunk to a new low.

Across the board, people report that they are doing worse this year compared to last year. It’s the worst it’s been at any point over the last two decades, with a nine-point drop from last year to this year.

The ONLY group doing better?

People who attend religious services weekly. 

Let this sink in for a minute.

  • Men say they are doing worse.
  • Women say they are doing worse.
  • Republicans say their mental health is down.
  • Democrats say the same thing.
  • Marital status and income…all down.

But those who attend a religious service weekly are +4.

I’m convinced one of the reasons for this is the communal nature of church gatherings. Church isn’t just where we worship…it’s where we worship together. Church isn’t just where we pray…it’s where we pray together.

When you invite everyone back to church, focus on the relationships—not the sermon or the Bible Studies.

Those are the things people have been missing. That’s what people are craving.

Use language like “we can’t wait to see you face to face” or “we’ve missed you.” Work hard and leave space for creating human connections.

Too many churches focus on their content—the sermons, the studies, the songs, and the services. These are great things! But most of these things can be experienced digitally with little to no drop off. Listening to someone talk for 30 minutes is arguably better and more efficient via video. Over the last few months, we’ve gotten pretty good at consuming content online.

But community is different. 

No matter how many Zoom calls or FaceTimes we do, it’s not really good enough. There’s something special that happens when the body of Christ gathers. 

Lean into this and make your re-gathering plan about the people, not the programs.

#3 – Develop a communication plan.

When you’re ready to start gathering, some people—your raving fans—will be first in line to walk through the doors.

But it’s going to take a lot more effort to convince the masses.

A few announcement emails and some social media posts for a couple of weeks won’t be nearly enough.

You need a long-term communication plan that addresses all the facets of re-opening, from safety protocols to inspiration. And this plan will likely need to span six months or more.

As you build this communication plan, here are a few things to consider.

  • Focus on all the channels, starting with email. Hopefully, you’ve made a concerted effort over the last few months to get an email address from everyone. This may seem like the most boring way to communicate, but it’s the most efficient. It’s an audience you own and your message isn’t dependent on algorithms. Think through an entire email campaign, focusing on different angles in each message.  
  • Then expand to all the social media channels, video, testimonies of members, and more. Think of every channel and tactic as a tool in the toolbox. Each tool has a purpose but you need them all. It’s nearly impossible to over-build the plan.  

The Senior Pastor’s Guide to Reopening has some great resources you can use to develop a reopening communications plan.


#4 – Lay off the pressure.  

It’s going to require a significant effort, particularly when it comes to communications, to invite your members and community back to a service.

But my final piece of advice is to do all of this without laying on any guilt at all.

People will return when they are ready and when they think it’s worth it. Keep preaching that to yourself and recognize that you can only influence one part of that equation.

You can work hard to create a great (and safe) experience, and you can communicate the why behind the what, but you can’t make a decision for people.

So don’t pressure and don’t use guilt. That will backfire.

What’s Next?

Even though things are changing and ministry will continue to feel different, there’s plenty of reason to be hopeful about the future of the church.

Gathering is good.

Whether we’re meeting in homes or auditoriums, getting together with other Christians has been and will continue to be an important part of practicing our faith.

Let’s rise to the challenge and, when ready, find appropriate ways to invite people back to church services. 

If you want to move past the reopening conversation and start working on how your church can REBOUND in this next season, we have a premium course for you. It’s called REBOUND, and it’s about transitioning from defense to offense.

You can enroll in the course for a one-time fee or get it included with a Church Fuel membership. Get the course here.

Five Simple Ways to Actually Reach People Online

Five Simple Ways to Actually Reach People Online

Churches have always looked to accomplish two primary tasks. It’s the challenge given to us by Jesus to go into all the world and make disciples. Right there in that one sentence are the two basic jobs to be done by every local church.

  1. More growth. We are called to help the people in our congregation grow deeper in their faith, following Jesus with their whole lives.  This is the call to discipleship.
  2. More people. We are called to go into the world and make new disciples. This is the call to evangelism.

In 2020, we were forced to examine new ways to do both of these tasks.  We’re wrestling with important questions, including…

  • Can you truly disciple people digitally from a distance?
  • What does engagement really mean?
  • How can we reach new people online?

A lot may have changed in your church, but your mission is still the same.  We’re just looking at the opportunities ahead of us and trying to make sense of it. Besides, the challenges before us are really just opportunities for those willing to embrace some new ways of doing ministry. I want to share five practical things you can do today to begin to engage and ultimately reach new people online.  These ideas are not expensive (in fact, they are all free).  This list is the beginning of a simple strategy you can use to truly reach people online.

#1 – Really get to know your online audiences.

Just like shepherds should know the condition of their flocks, pastors should really be in tune with what is going on in the lives of the congregation Just like missionaries must first understand the context where they are called to serve, pastors should seek to truly understand the ups, downs, struggles, pain, and issues facing those who live in their community. If you want to reach people online in your geographic area, how well do you really know them?  How well do you understand them?  And how accurate is your information?

Here’s a free, customizable report based on your zip code that will give you a ton of information. 

You can dive into demographics, family status, relationship with money, and even learning style. It’s a good starting point for anyone wanting to better understand their mission field.

#2 – Start sharing helpful content.

Since we engage with so many churches around the country inside the Church Fuel membership, I get to read a lot of church email newsletters and see a lot of church social feeds. And it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that most of the information is announcements. Churches have gotten really good at talking about our own stuff.  Our services.  Our programs.  Our events.  Our new series. Justin Nava sums it up well with this appropriately snarky post:

Your new series?  The outreach events?  The church programs? Those are great things, but unfortunately, that’s not what people in your community are searching for online (or clicking on or sharing).  That stuff is important to YOU but not interesting to them. What kind of stuff am I talking about.  Here’s a list of posts I wish churches would do.

  • 10 Local Shops We Love
  • New in Town Guide: The Most Important Things to Know About (City Name Here)
  • The Five Best Places to Go For a Run
  • Where Kids Eat Free in (City Name Here)
  • The Best Staycation Ideas in (City Name Here) Back to School Checklist for Kids and Parents
  • Best Spot for Watching Fireworks in (City Name Here)
  • A 21-Day Christmas Devotional Guide
  • 10 Things to Be Thankful for in (City Name Here)
  • Local Non Profits Who are Serving our Community Well
  • Can’t Miss Activities this Fall in (City Name Here)
  • Hometown Tourist: 5 Ways You Can Act Like a Tourist Near (City Name Here)

Can you imagine how your church would be perceived if you began publishing more content like this? It’s not that we should never talk about our new series or post about our events…those things are really important. But they are like posting selfies all the time. Use the other camera on your phone and start talking about stuff that is important to your audience. I’m going to give a lot of examples (and even share some free content that you can quickly customize) on this free training.  It’s Thursday, January 21 at 1pm EST and I’d love for you to join us.

#3 – Ask your church members to share helpful content.

Here’s where it starts to get interesting. Once you share something helpful online, now ask your congregation to share it.  This is how you expand your reach.  This is how you knock on people’s door. If the content you create is truly helpful (like the stuff on the list above), your church members will want to share it.  You’re giving them a pretty easy task, one that might even make them look good as they complete it. They just need a gentle reminder and some clear direction. When you post stuff like this to your channels, you’re reaching people who have probably already engaged with your church at some level.  Maybe they have liked your page in the past. But when your members share on their pages, you’re reaching their audiences.  You’re branching out to people who may not have a direct connection to your church.  In a small way, you’re going into the world.

#4 – Make it EASY for your church members to share helpful content

When you ask your people to take action, make it very easy for them to follow through. Here are some ideas:

  • Don’t just ask them to share, write a few sentences and ask them to copy and paste.
  • Create an image for them. Or a handful of images so they can choose what is most relevant.
  • Rally everyone at a certain date and time (even if it’s a little cheesy) like “Share it Saturday” or “Talk about it Tuesday.”

Remember, when your members share this stuff, you’re knocking on new people’s doors.  Ask them to do it, but work very hard to make it easy. Tactically speaking, I’m a big fan of creating a page like yourchurch.com/invite and putting all your congregation-facing inviting resources in one place.

#5 – Start having normal conversations with people who engage.

If this doesn’t really sound like Biblical evangelism or discipleship, you’re right.

Everything here is like a knock on the door. But once someone opens the door by engaging with this content, you have an incredible opportunity.

Now you get to engage.  Now you get to follow up. You’ve said hello, now it’s time to have a conversation. So make sure you have people ready to engage online, by liking comments, saying hi, and asking questions.

Not in a weird way, but like a normal human. You could even create a volunteer team or utilize volunteers to do this.

By no means is this a comprehensive strategy.  And by my own admission, this is a very “light” way to “reach” people online. But my goal is to give you a specific way to initially connect with people.

5 Elements of the Perfect Church Staff Retreat

5 Elements of the Perfect Church Staff Retreat

There’s nothing like a church staff retreat to get people on the same page, get excited about the vision, plan for the culture, and contribute to a positive team culture.

A church staff retreat gives everyone the opportunity to work on the ministry, not just in the ministry.

Done right, a staff retreat can be productive, effective, and fun. People will return to everyday ministry energized and excited about the future. But do it wrong and people go back to the office feeling two days behind schedule.

For it to truly work, you don’t just need a bunch of team development ideas or a few vision-filled team dinners. You need the right people with a focused agenda and the right activities.

The Perfect Staff Retreat Agenda

Now is a great time to plan your next church staff retreat, so as you put together the agenda, here are five things to include.

#1 – Your Staff Retreat Agenda Should Include Time for Spiritual Formation

Churches have a lot in common with businesses. 

Even though we use different terminology, we do a lot of the same things that for-profit companies do. Things like…

  • Finance, including budgeting and spending
  • Operations, including planning and strategy
  • Marketing, including advertising and outreach
  • Human resources, including hiring, firing, and developing people.

Your church is much more than a business, but it is at least a business.

In fact, churches ought to be some of the most well-run organizations on the planet because our mission is more important than anything else.

But as you plan your church staff retreat, make sure you lean into the spiritual side of leadership. Don’t make it all business and all planning. Make sure you include spiritual development on the agenda.

If you’re looking for a practical tool to use, here is a free resource. 

These devotions were written for pastors to use in team meetings and team retreats.

#2 – Your Staff Retreat Should Include a Time of Leadership Development

Spiritual formation and leadership development are related, but they are uniquely different.

You want everyone on your team to get better, to keep developing skills that will make them better at their jobs or in their volunteer roles. When you get your leaders together in a retreat setting, make sure you build in some time to help them skill-up.

In our discovery phase creating The Leadership Course, we surveyed hundreds of pastors about the skills they wanted to see in their leaders and volunteers. We consolidated all of those skills into this list, which we call “12 Core Skills.”

Imagine if all of your leaders developed or continued to develop these skills in their personal lives.  

They would do their jobs better. They would lead better as a volunteer. They would be better moms, dads, employees, and people.

We created a curriculum around these 12 core skills and it’s a part of that leadership development course. You can access this curriculum (which has both digital resources you can use and video teaching that you can play) immediately when you join Church Fuel.  

Click here to join Church Fuel.  

This curriculum works great as a kickoff to a regular team meeting, or pick and choose topics for your next church staff retreat. 

#3 – Your Staff Retreat Should Include Team Building that Helps Create Culture

Team building isn’t all trust falls and personality tests.

In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni writes, “Members of great teams trust one another on a fundamental, emotional level, and they are comfortable being vulnerable with each other about their weaknesses, mistakes, fears, and behaviors.” 

That kind of trust isn’t built overnight, but every time you have a meeting or retreat, you can add a building block.

That’s why it’s important to carve out time to actually build culture and help people understand and trust each other.

Many churches do experience a ton of value by working through Myers Briggs or DISC and talking about interpersonal relationships. Tons of churches have grown together by processing through the Enneagram, perhaps bringing in a coach to help facilitate conversations.

While formal team development exercises can be helpful, don’t forget about less formal activities. Tanys Mosher, Communications Director at Southgate Community Church, says this:

Ziplining, hiking, Spelunking, road trip in an RV – these shared experiences have given us more personal connection and trust-building along with many laughs. We’ve worked through personality tests as well but the above has been far more productive on the human end of team building.

Fun Team Building Ideas for Your Church Staff Retreat

  • Brian Smith, a Church Fuel member, recommends Escape Rooms. “It was fantastic and required everyone’s ability to get out.”
  • Make a playlist. Ask everyone to submit a song that summarizes their life and listen during breaks.
  • Kari Sullivan remembers a staff and family camping trip with lots of time for just hanging out.
  • Make a bio book. Joan Garry suggests everyone write a 1-2 page personal (not professional) bio and put them together in a notebook. Have everyone read and give a quiz.
  • Wii Bowling or a tournament around some other video games.
  • Bill Rose, another Church Fuel member, says: “For some reason our most memorable was a Scavenger Hunt. It sounds youth groupish but we had 3 teams of 4, ages 31-66, piled in cars driving all over town and solving riddles for 3 hours.

Team building activities aren’t just for fun and games (though there’s certainly value there). But as your team learns about each other and learns to work together, you’re building a culture to support your strategy.

Jenni Catron says leaders are keepers of culture. Your church staff retreat is an opportunity to build and curate a staff culture. It’s much more than an event, it’s an opportunity to build on your values and help everyone learn to trust those who are working together on the same strategy.

#4 – Your Staff Retreat Should Include a Time of Honest Evaluation

When you gather key leaders who care about the future of the church, one of the most meaningful things you can do is look back on what happened. 

When you look back, set aside phrases like “I liked that” or “I didn’t like that.” Your preferences aren’t what needs evaluation.

Instead, you should push hard to talk about effectiveness. Did this program accomplish its intended goal? Is this ministry helping us accomplish our mission? Those are far better questions.

Look at expectations and reality.  Talk about numbers. Evaluate plans compared to the outcome.

Ed Catmull of Pixar/Walt Disney Animation talks about the Braintrust, a group of people assembled to evaluate every movie and give notes to the director. In Creativity, Inc., he writes:

“The Braintrust is fueled by the idea that every note we give is in the service of a common goal: Supporting and helping each other as we try to make better movies.”

Evaluation isn’t just an activity. It’s a mindset. 

But each time you take an honest look back, you’re helping create a culture of continual improvement, a place where it’s normal to get better, not coast on past success or get used to a steady decline. 

Here is another tool to help you evaluate honestly. It’s a set of 7 distinct evaluation forms to help you look back on a special event, staff performance, a sermon, a church service, your website, and a ministry or program. There’s even a “secret shopper” form you could give to someone you ask to attend your church for the first time and evaluate their experience from an outsider’s perspective.

This particular resource is a part of the members’ Resource Library in Church Fuel.

#5 – Your Staff Retreat Should Allow Plenty of Time to Plan and Look Forward

There comes a time in most team retreats where some people feel like it’s time to start on the real work.  

This isn’t to say that spiritual formation and team development isn’t real work. In many ways, it’s the most important work.  

Team building and talking about the past aren’t good enough for some people. They want to make plans and get to work. While you’ll likely have to pull these people through the first parts of your staff retreat agenda, this is where they shine.


William Vanderbloemen says a staff retreat is an ideal time to cast vision or, “If your team has drifted from their mission, re-direct everyone back.”

At your staff retreat, you don’t want to look to the immediate future. You want to look into the near future and slightly beyond. The staff retreat isn’t the time to talk about this Sunday or even next month. You want to talk through the next horizon and the next milestone.

Dan Reiland says, “Be fierce about making progress, not merely dealing with more maintenance.” 

Our favorite tool for this is the Two Page Plan® – a strategic ministry plan that packs everything important into just two pages. There’s a PDF you can print, an online version where you can create, save, edit, and share, and a course to show you exactly how to use it.

The Two Page Plan gives you the space to talk about the vision for the future but keeps you from spinning off into visionary la-la land. The plan, not just a big vision, is what gets your team on the same page and moving in the same direction.

The Two Page Plan template really can guide your staff retreat planning session. And once you complete it, you can revisit from year to year, adjusting what needs to be changed for the current ministry season and reinforcing what should stay the same no matter what.

Mary Jinks, the Director of Operations at Grace Church in Knoxville experienced positive results as her team went through this planning process. Check out her story.

“Our entire staff went through about 5 months of deep depression. Then we decided it was time to do something about it. Stopped talking about “when things get back to normal” and started a whole new plan. Used church fuel’s ministry plan template. Spent 3 months developing and rolling out a completely revamped ministry plan. The staff is off the charts excited. Our people are re-engaging in new ways. Giving is up. In-person attendance is increasing. Online attendance is gaining momentum. Hang in there. Better days are ahead. Pray and seek. Love and bless. Go and do.”

Change Your Staff Retreat Agenda to Suit Your Needs

The perfect staff meeting usually includes components from each of these five areas.

  1. Spiritual Formation
  2. Leadership Development
  3. Team Building
  4. Looking Back
  5. Looking Ahead

But sometimes, you might need to throw out the perfect agenda and focus on just one or two activities.  

For example, in a normal year, this agenda might hit the sweet spot. But coming through all you’ve been through, you might prayerfully decide what your team needs most is a focus on emotional or spiritual health. It might be more important for you to rest and refresh rather than plan and advance.

Know your people. And pastor your people.

Other churches might find all five things in one event is still too much, choosing to break things into two parts. Something like this might suit your needs:

  • A Retreat focused on spiritual formation, leadership development, and/or team building
  • An Advance focused on evaluating the past and planning for the future

Adapt this agenda to suit your needs. Contextualize this plan to fit your context.

There’s nothing like a great church staff retreat to get people on the same page, excited about the vision and plan for the future, and contributing to a positive team culture.

Use the time to step back FROM the ministry and work ON the ministry.

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13 Tips for Creating a 2021 Financial Plan in Your Church

13 Tips for Creating a 2021 Financial Plan in Your Church

As you look to make a new financial plan or church budget for next year, here are thirteen practical tips.

  1. Now is a great time to evaluate your ministries and programs for effectiveness and trim things that no longer work. Don’t keep programs and ministries you like but are no longer effective. Go through a season of evaluation right before you go into budget planning and then fund what is working. These evaluation forms can help.
  2. Underestimate your church’s income and overestimate your spending. “A budget is really a forecast, which at best is an educated guess,” says Joe Sangl of INJOY Stewardship Solutions. If you’re making guesses, it’s probably smarter to guess on the conservative side.
  3. Build a budget based on a percentage of last year’s income. Budgeting by faith sounds spiritual but it might not be the best financial strategy. Eric Owens, Pastor at Rincon First Christian Church says, “We base our budget on 85% of income for the current year and strive to have a reserve of 3-6 months operating expenses.” 
  4. Consider a shorter budget cycle if needed. If your church is growing or if you’re affected by COVID, a shorter timeline will give you a built-in mechanism to make adjustments.  Maybe your budget is for six months instead of twelve.Trying to plan out the entirety of the year could be difficult with the fast, changing climate we are currently in. Build for the first quarter, and then make needed adjustments throughout the year,” says Philip Scowden, Community Engagement Leader for Thrivent.
  5. Make sure your budget accounts for cash flow, not just total giving. When you receive and spend money matters. Connor Baxter, Campus Pastor at Watermark Frisco says, “Businesses are having to look at different numbers than years prior. Pastors should do the same. Don't just look at top of line donations, but look at your overall cash flow weighed against the expenses you've been able to cut this year.” 
  6. Build a budget that reflects the priorities you laid out in your strategic ministry plan.  And if you don’t have a strategic ministry plan, create one immediately. Chuck Taylor, CFO of Trinity Fellowship Church says, “Make sure that everything you spend can be directly tied back to your church's mission, vision, and strategy. Too often church leaders prioritize a cost but cannot explain why. From volunteer t-shirts to software, be intentional with everything you spend.” If you don’t have a written and clear ministry plan, here’s some practical advice (and a template).
  7. A good financial plan should have two parts. A spending plan, which most people call a budget. And a funding plan, which describes how you’re going to actually receive the money, which most churches don’t have.
  8. Get your stewardship committee, finance team, and leaders thinking about funding, not just spending. Most churches agonize over how they are going to spend it and give very little effort to strategically thinking through the funding side. This is a big shift for a lot of churches. We talked about five of these shifts here.
  9. Have a clear plan to talk about money. Talk about it consistently. Talk about it with purpose. Talk about it with a sense of hope. Here’s a free money message series, complete with message notes, graphics, and take-home tools.
  10. If you want your people to help fund the budget, make sure you have a strategy to help them win with their personal finances. This means you need to help them manage the 90% not just ask for the 10%. If you don’t talk about wise financial principles, who will?
  11. Stephen Kump, Co-founder and CEO of Charityvest, says: “Encouraging members to give stock rather than cash can increase donated amounts by a significant margin. When members give this way, they avoid paying capital gains tax on their stocks that have gone up in value, putting more money toward giving rather than the government. Having a simple way to receive donated stocks ensures you get the benefits without the operational headache of opening a brokerage account and coordinating the receipt of stock + paperwork yourself.” Charityvest is a great tool for this and it’s dead simple for churches.  
  12. Don’t be afraid to ask people to give. Jeff Henderson of The FOR Company says, “My responsibility is to ask. Their responsibility is to answer. Don’t shy away from asking big.”
  13. Say thanks. A lot. Sometimes, with a hand-written note.  Everyone who is currently giving to your church needs to know they matter. They need to hear you personally say thanks. People who work in non-profit fundraising know donor retention is more important than donor acquisition.

If you’re a Church Fuel member, you’ll find budget templates, cash flow worksheets, finance team training, and a lot more to help with the budgeting process in the Resource Library. Plus, when you sign up for membership, you’ll get immediate access to The Stewardship Course, our premium training to help you raise and manage money in the church.