A Post COVID – 19 Retention plan
In Mid-February most of us were feeling pretty confident about how 2020 would turn out. For me I was excited. People were getting saved and weekly church attendance was on the rise. Our discipleship classes were full, things were going great. Then the announcement came that the NBA was pausing its season. The NHL and MLB followed the following days. I can specifically remember sitting at a Zupas café discussing what we were going to do about church for the next few weeks. In the back of my mind thinking that we will be open by Easter which was 4 weeks away. Well, I was wrong. Two weeks quickly turned into 10 weeks with no live services.
During those 10 weeks, we worked hard at staying in constant contact with our church members. We developed a task force to assist the staff in contacting and doing deliveries to those in need. The system was running pretty smoothly. Then the time came to reopen at the end of May. We had no idea how many people would come back to church the first week. We were blessed to have about 40 percent come back the first week. We were really excited. Then the question came into my mind, how do we get the other 60 percent back? I would like to give you a few ideas on how to make the 60 percent number gradually decrease.
• Identify the “Why”
Week one of the COVID shutdown we saw great online viewing numbers. The joy of having 3000 people watch your service quickly vanished as the number dropped each week even though the media team was putting out great content. We quickly found through many conversations with our people that it is vital to reestablish in person fellowship with the church community to develop spiritual growth.
• Gather & Analyze Data
With all the chaos that was the first two months of COVID, it was easy to lose track of people even with all the contact we were doing. Once we reopened we knew we needed to create a weekly report generated from the attendance software that showed us who had not been back to the church since the reopen. At first, this list was very large so we had to start simplifying how we contacted people. We first placed people into a “COVID not returned” group to help ease communication in our church management software. This group made it possible to send specific emails about how to return to church and what we were doing to make it safe. We then used the attendance report each week to see how many members and how many regular attenders have yet to return. Thankfully the list got smaller and smaller each week as we contacted the various segments. Then we were able to place them in our regular retention process if they missed a service after returning from the COVID break.
• Develop a plan
In the previous section, I mentioned we broke our “COVID not Returned” group into members and regular attenders. We then wanted to find why those individuals had not been back to church yet. So we decided to place our people onto four categories.
o Vulnerable Population – will take time
o Concerned Population – will take convincing
o Need not met Population – waiting for a ministry to reopen
o Busy Population – just needs a reminder
These individuals where called, emailed, and texted by our teams until we got a classification for every person. The “Needs not met” and the Busy population” were the easiest to get back to attend a Sunday service, it just took a couple weeks. The Vulnerable and Concerned population is still a work in progress and we as a church are okay with that. So in the meantime, we have made sure they are receiving a weekly email with the live stream information so they can watch online. They are also be contacted on a bi-weekly basis by our task force team. The task force will ask them what they can pray for as well as inviting them to a small group meeting, group breakfast with the Pastor, or a one on one coffee meeting. This goal is to get them into smaller forms of fellowship before returning to Sunday service.
At this point, we have had about 75% of our people return to church. We are praying the other 25% will come back soon. This is not a perfect plan by any means, but it has helped us stay connected with our people when things like pandemics mess up your normal way of staying connected to absentees.
Fred Murray - Idea Network