MIAMI— As the world enters a new post-pandemic normal, churches are asking themselves, “What now?” and Mark Croston, director of Black church partnerships at Lifeway Christian Resources, is helping Florida Baptist Black multicultural pastors and leaders answer that question.
On Saturday, April 9, a group of 50 gathered at Florida Baptists’ Southeast Regional Center for Moving the Church Forward, a regional ministry training event.
Croston’s presentation elicited laughs, claps and hearty amens from the pastors and leaders who filled the room, while also challenging attendees to take deliberate steps to reengage their communities with the gospel.
“It was very inspiring to fellowship again with churches in the southeast region,” said Patrick Coats, Florida Baptists’ Black multicultural church catalyst. “Pastors and church leaders were challenged to reengage their context at another level with the gospel. The world has moved on; the local church must get moving.”
Serving others to share the gospel
Croston guided the group to think through the “fish” they are trying to catch.
“You have to know what kind of fish you are going after,” he said. “This will determine what kind of gear you use, at what time you go fishing…”
He explained that people are similar to fish because people from different socio-economic backgrounds, demographics, and communities value different things and are available at different times. The church has to find ways to serve everyone in their community, with the ultimate purpose of sharing the gospel.
Before churches can even welcome new people through their front doors, churches must make sure their online footprints are inviting, Croston believes.
“Seven out of ten people will look at your online footprint before they see you in person and decide whether they even want to go to your church,” he said. “Make it easy for them to find the most important info in three clicks or less.”
The most important information on church websites are the church address, contact information and service times, he said.
Croston also emphasized the role of online worship services saying, “Your new front door is your online worship service,” and churches shouldn’t fear that online worship will replace in-person church.
“I watch a lot of cooking shows, but I have never gotten full off one. I might have gotten hungry, but I never got full.
“Watching worship on television doesn’t compare to what happens in the house … encourage people to trade their couch for a pew.
“Our job is to serve this present age.”
A recent Lifeway Research survey echoed Croston’s perspective. The survey indicated that most churches shifted to some type of online video services during the pandemic. Now, as most churches have resumed in-person services, 60% of pastors are encouraging online worshipers to begin to attend in person again if they are able.
Building a team
Croston closed his presentation with a team-building exercise. At first, the groups hunched over little Lego pieces and tried to put together something that made sense. After several minutes of struggle, Croston gave each team illustrated instructions to put together their Lego scene.
Each person on the team filled a specific role. One identified pieces; another read instructions, and another put the pieces together. In the same way, each member in a church team has a role to play, and the pastor must find the best people for his team.
Along with the Lego instructions, Croston concluded by giving attendees this piece of advice: “Where do you find people for your team? Look at the ones that are already doing something.”