This Sunday evening (17th January) we will be meeting at 6.30pm on Zoom, for about an hour, to appoint two new elders for Welcome Church. I’m very excited that Robin Willison and Nnamdi Anyaegbunam are now joining the team and it’s been great to receive so many positive encouragements about them and their families from across the whole church.
Guy Miller, who leads our Commission family of churches will be leading us through the evening together. Please come full of faith and be ready to show your support and add your prayers; this a key moment for us to be together as a church.
You will be able to log on from 6.20 pm for some informal chat and a chance to say ‘Hello’ to some people, and then the meeting will then begin properly at about 6.30pm. See you on Zoom!
This week I’ve been blogging about our Welcome Church Recovery Plan for 2021, following the pandemic. This is Part 4, the final post in the series. If you missed the other posts please read them first. You can find the first one by clicking here.
As the vaccine is rolled out and normal life returns again, we need a plan to help us recover as a church. I talked yesterday about how our Recovery Plan is built around three ‘R’s: Renew, Refresh, Rebuild (click here to read it)
The plan does raise some questions, including …
What does our church diary look like for the year ahead?
What activities do we restart and when?
Are there enough people ready and willing to make them happen?
What activities do we delay restarting?
What activities did we do before that pandemic that we choose never to restart?
What current (lockdown) activities do we stop as normal life returns and when?
What is our strategy for restarting ‘in person’ Sunday meetings?
When will kids work restart in person?
What about youth work?
What might the future of online church life look like?
What events might we choose to keep as online events in the longer term?
Should we have a ‘relaunch’ of our new building?
When will we reopen the church offices?
What staff roles will we recruit to join our employed team?
How do we help people who’ve experienced loss during the pandemic?
How do we help people who have ongoing health issues as a result, including mental and emotional health issues?
How do we help people who are facing financial challenges following the pandemic?
AND SO MANY MORE!
The plan also has some implications …
1. We need to think carefully about what we do and when
Let’s not assume we’ll all step back into the same roles in church life that we had before the pandemic – though I’m sure (and I hope) that many people will 🙂
Let’s not assume that just because we were running a certain activity as a church before the pandemic it must automatically restart afterwards – we need to consider each activity carefully
Let’s not assume that the things we restart will be delivered in the same way they were before the pandemic – some things may be delivered very differently, and perhaps some will now be done online
Let’s not assume that the things we restart must all restart immediately – some things will need to be done before others
As we plan let’s also remember that we’re a medium sized church with a certain amount of resources in terms of people, skills and finances and that we’re in recovery from a global event described by the Prime Minister as “the greatest challenge our nation has faced since the Second World War”.
2. Every leader should consider how “Renew, Refresh, Rebuild” applies to the areas they are responsible for
What could this approach mean for the way your Life Group runs? What could it mean for the kids work? The youth work? The worship team? Prayer meetings? Encounter? In fact every area of church life needs to be considered. As a team we will be available to help leaders think it through and plan appropriately.
3. We need to aim for a church diary that’s a bit less packed this year
Before the pandemic our church diary was packed with activities, but a return to normal life will place extra demands on every area of our lives. We may find that work, family and social life all put significantly increased pressure on our diaries.
As a church we want to recognise this challenge, and not make it worse with a long list of extra demands, perhaps mistakenly seeking to make up for ground lost during the pandemic. We want our church to be a place of refreshing and restoration, not of demand and duty. This means that what we do and how often we do it needs careful thought.
4. We each need to actively prioritise time together for fun and relaxation, as well as for worship and ministry
Recovery is not the only thing that takes time; rebuilding our relationships with one another will take time too. We may have a church diary that’s a bit less packed, but let’s still try to prioritise time with our church family at an individual level, at a Life Group level and at a whole church level this year. When we’re allowed to, we’ll aim to put on some whole church events that have no ministry purpose beyond hanging out, having fun and being a family together. We need them.
Let’s also try to prioritise our Sunday meetings and our Life Groups. These two things are like the two wings of a bird: both are essential for our wellbeing. During these times , as we start to meet together in person again, we’ll be seeking to meet with God, to worship and to minister to one another, looking to encounter his presence and find healing and restoration wherever it’s needed.
5. We need to remember that the goal is RECOVERY
I would describe our church at the moment by using a football analogy: right now we’re probably not spiritually or emotionally “match fit”. Coming out of lockdown at full speed when the unlock whistle blows, and trying to play a full 90 minutes at top level is not going to help us. It could cause injuries and disappointment and it could damage what we can achieve over the long term. We need to recover our match fitness first.
Some of us will come out of the pandemic feeling fully refreshed and raring to go; for most there will be a process of restoration and recovery. Let’s make sure we look out for one another this year, and take the time we need to get back to a place of strength where we feel “match fit” again and ready to go.
Let’s also remember that God is not limited! He loves to respond when we step out in faith, and He is going to do good things in and through us in 2021. He may even do some new and unexpected things.
So that’s out approach to 2021: RENEW, REFRESH, REBUILD – as a pathway towards RECOVERY
This week I’m blogging about our Welcome Church Recovery Plan for 2021, following the pandemic. This post is Part 3 of a short series. If you missed the other posts, please read those first. You can find the first one by clicking here.
Although we’re currently in another lockdown, we’re expecting to go through a gradual process of returning to normal life this year as more and more people are vaccinated.
In Part 1 of this short series I talked about how, as we return to normal life again, our return tochurch life needs to feel like coming home, and not be done in a way that places unrealistic demands on people.
In part 2 I talked about some key challenges we face and about how this year we need to ask not “What CAN we do?”, but “What SHOULD we do?” I also talked about how, following the challenges of the pandemic, being together in person as a church is going to be more important than ever.
So how are we going to approach this year?
As a team we’ve prayerfully put together our Welcome Church Recovery Plan. The plan isn’t a schedule of activities or a list of SMART goals for the year; it’s a description of the ethos we want to adopt this year as a church; the sort of culture we want to build. The plan is built around three ‘R’s – Renew, Refresh, Rebuild.
The three ‘R’s’ will form the back-bone of our year, and will underpin and give shape to our pastoring, our planning, our preaching and our programmes. Let’s look at them one at a time:
Renew: a focus on relationship/people, including …
Renewal of a vibrant and meaningful relationship with Jesus
Renewal of our sense of ‘sonship/daughterhood’ before our Heavenly Father
Renewal of our emotional health and well being
Renewal of a Biblical pattern of church life together (see Acts 2v42-47)
Renewal of friendship, of fun and of a sense of adventure together
Refresh: a focus on our vision/strategy, including …
Refreshing our understanding of God’s plans and purposes for His church
Refreshing our vision and mission as Welcome Church
Refreshing our “rhythms of life” as a church; what we do weekly, termly and annually
Refreshing our approach to “whole life discipleship”
Refreshing our individual, God given sense of purpose and calling
Rebuild: a focus on tasks/doing, including …
Rebuilding our Holy Spirit filled, leadership faith for the mission
Rebuilding our Welcome Church staff team to full strength, in every way
Rebuilding our core meetings and ministries
Rebuilding our ministry teams and serving roles
Rebuilding our presence in the community
To put it in a sentence:
“In 2021, as we unlock, we will aim to RENEW our relationships with God and with one another, to REFRESH our vision and our strategy, and to REBUILD our core church ministries and our faith for the mission”
This will help us achieve a fourth ‘R’: RECOVERY
This is a recovery plan to help us recover from the challenges of the pandemic and find fresh faith and momentum for the future. The goal is that Jesus is glorified in us and that the Great Commission moves ahead through us as we step out in faith. God has big plans for our church in the years ahead, so let’s get ready.
Tomorrow in the final part of this short series I will consider some of the questions our plan raises and some of the implications of it.
This week I’m blogging about our Welcome Church Recovery Plan for 2021, following the pandemic. This post is Part 2 of a short series, so if you missed Part 1 please read that first by clicking here.
Yesterday I talked about how, as the UK starts to return to normal life again, our church needs to feel like coming home, and not like going to work; we need to be a place of refuge and refreshing, not of demand and duty. When the return to normal life begins, I see some significant challenges in front of us as a church:
1. We need to find ways to reconnect again
Last March we were separated from one another suddenly and unexpectedly. It’s not over yet. For most people, connection with church has been (and still is) restricted to a limited number of people, with most of it being done online. We’ve missed out on having meaningful times of worship and ministry together in person. Our online worship has been done well, but it’s not the same dynamic as being together in person – certainly I know I’ve missed it.
As we unlock we probably all need to reconnect more deeply both with Jesus, and with one another. Many of us have missed out on fellowship with one another and we need it back. Many of us are desperate to encounter God in a fresh way this year too, and I know He’ll meet that desire as we seek Him.
2. We need to return to Biblical patterns of church life
Our online meetings have been great, but they’re not the same as being together in person. The Biblical patterns of church life includes meeting together, worshipping together, eating together, serving together, breaking bread together, praying together, doing ministry together and sharing life together. I’m thankful for the technology that’s served us well during this time, but we’re still at a distance; I can’t wait until we can be together again in person with freedom to sing, worship, minister and interact with each other
One thing we’re doing to help towards this is to begin ‘Live Streamed’ Sunday meetings from Jan 24th, instead of pre-recorded ones. This means we can all be together at the same time, even if it’s only online at first. Live streaming also helps to create a ‘runway’ to get us back to in person meetings, because we can allow people to start attending these meetings in person when the time is right.
3. We need to find fresh faith for our calling in God
This year has been challenging in lots of ways. I know that many people have felt a little bit purposeless and perhaps even unsure about what God wants them to do, especially as many ways they used to serve have not been possible. Others have been run ragged with a huge weight of extra responsibility – in many areas of life – and are now tired and need a rest.
As we unlock I want us all to find fresh faith for our calling, both as individuals and as a whole church. God has been at work in us all the way through the pandemic, and his purposes will continue both now and when we start to unlock. Even when we can’t see it, He’s working. (And of course, let’s not wait for unlocking to happen before we step out in faith; let’s all look to be serving God and walking in his plans now.)
4. We may be under pressure
I said in my previous blog that as 2021 unfolds and normal life starts to return people will begin the process of returning to normal work, family and social life, and that this will create a pressure of expectation for people to live up to. We may not like to admit it, but these things may well take precedence for people over their involvement in church life and ministry.
These challenges are not to be underestimated, but they also help point us towards some key principles to help us handle this year well:
First, instead of asking, “What CAN we do?” we need to be asking “What SHOULD we do?”
We must resist over loading people with meetings and demands. This year, as a church, we may need to say “No” or “Not yet” like never before, with faith that Jesus is still building his church. When we CAN restart our ministries we need to think hard about what ones we SHOULD do and when; just because we CAN doesn’t mean that we SHOULD. There may even be things we were doing as a church before the pandemic that we choose never to restart at all 😮.
Second, 2021 is a year when being together as a church is going to be more important than ever
During the pandemic we’ve missed out on many of the blessings that come from being part of a church family together. As we start to unlock this year we will need to focus on healing our church community, and on being together, creating that sense of “Homecoming” I mentioned before. When restrictions ease – and they will ease – we must plan times together just for fun, friendship and relaxation, as well as for spiritual purposes. It also means that our Life Groups will be more important than ever too.
Despite being in the midst of a new Lockdown our nation is approaching a turning point in the fight against Covid. The vaccine roll out has begun and, as people are vaccinated, we’ll start to see a return to normal life. 2021 should be a turning point for our nation, and that means it will be a turning point for our church on the road to recovery too.
With this in mind we’ve prayerfully put together our Welcome Church Recovery Plan. This week I’m going to blog about it. The plan isn’t a schedule of activities or goals for the year; it’s more about the ethos we want to adopt this year as a church and the sort of culture we want to build.
What a difference a year makes
As a church we began 2020 on a bit of a high. In January our new building was opened. Lots of new people joined us and many were baptised. God was clearly at work and we were ready for anything with a sense that “we could do this mission together”.
Then Covid-19 hit like a tidal wave sweeping everything before it. As 2021 begins we’re in a very different place. Lockdown 3 has started. People are tired and discouraged. We’ve suffered losses. We have questions:
Will these restrictions ever end?
When will I get the vaccine?
Is the vaccine safe?
Will someone I love get sick or even die?
Will my job survive?
Can I even find a job?
When can I see my friends?
Will I get a holiday this year?
When will normal life return?
Far from being ready for anything, right now we’re not really ready to do anything much at all!
As we begin a new year and a new lockdown I’m aware that many people feel wrung out, frustrated and fed up. They’re unsure how long they can keep living under these restrictions but, at the same time, they’re not sure how they’ll cope with a return to normal life when that happens either.
One newspaper article described us a nation that had moved from FOMO (Fear of missing out) to FOGO (Fear of going out). This fear, they said, was not about the risk of catching the virus but rather a concern about having the capacity to cope with normal life again.
This all adds up to a great place for us to be in, because it’s a place where God can work; God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness.
A Big Concern
I am (of course!) concerned about the ongoing restrictions, but I’m actually more concerned about when things start to unlock. A new Lockdown brings fresh challenges for us, but we know what we’re doing with lockdown now; we’ve done it twice before; we’re in a routine with it.
What we’ve not done before is unlock and return to normality, and this will almost certainly happen as 2021 goes by and more people get vaccinated. As it happens I’m concerned we could find ourselves quickly overwhelmed with activity. I’m concerned that our lives – including our church life – could easily become unsustainable and unmanageable.
The Church is God’s Family
It’s important to remember that the church is the people; it’s a family. Church isn’t a business or a corporation where we must now work extra hard to make up for the ground lost due to the pandemic and get our KPIs back on track.
Many people in our church have experienced damage caused by the pandemic: emotional, relational, physical, financial and spiritual. Some of these impacts may be long lasting. We must allow ourselves time to recover in the months ahead, and perhaps to grieve some losses so we don’t burn out physically or emotionally.
It needs to feel like coming home
As 2021 unfolds and the vaccine rolls out people will begin to go through the process of returning to normal work, family and social life, and that will create some pressures. There will be a weight of expectation in all of these areas that people will be under pressure to live up to.
As this all happens we need to make sure we get our approach right as a church. The first principle of our recovery plan is this: our church needs to be a place of refuge in the midst of that; a place of refreshing and recovery, not of demand, drain and duty.
In summary, when Lockdown ends and we start to return to normal life, our church needs to feel like coming home … and not like going to work.
Christopher Hawes has written and produced a brilliant video for us this Christmas; it’s my privilege to share it here. Please can I encourage you to watch it and to share it as widely as possible with friends and family?
Why not post it on social media, or message, email and What’s App it to the people you know?
As a church we love partnering with Compassion UK to see children lifted out of poverty in Jesus’ name. So far as a church we’ve sponsored over 140 children in a part of Togo in Africa. You can read a bit more about what we do by clicking here. People from Welcome Church have also sponsored children in other parts of the world too. You can see many of their pictures here:
If you would like to sponsor a child all you need to do is follow this link here. The link will take you to a specific page where you can view the children who are available to sponsor right now today, and how are all based in the project in Togo we’re already connected with. For £28 a month you can completely change a life; what a great gift to give this Christmas!
Togo is one probably the least developed country in Africa, and that’s against some tough competition. Sponsorship is one of the best kingdom investments you will ever make.
Please, in Jesus name, go for it!
Isaiah 58v10: If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
… but it won’t be much like the ones we used to know! The pandemic has made a huge difference to what we can do this year, but we’ve still got some great events planned. Hopefully you’re enjoying our Welcome Church Video Advent Calendar; please make sure you also put these events in the diary so you don’t miss out:
On December 20th in the morning we have a Baptism Meeting
We may not be together in person to celebrate the birth of Jesus, but we can certainly celebrate some of the new Christian births we’ve seen this year. God has been at work despite all the restrictions 😃
There was quite a long time when we couldn’t do baptisms at all due to the Covid regulations, but we’re now allowed to go ahead and we’ve waited long enough! Join us at 9am or 11am at WelcomeChurch.online where we’ll witness 13 people ‘taking the plunge’. Our last preaching series was all about being fruitful, and this is some of our fruit as a church; don’t miss it!
On December 20th in the evening we have our Carol Service with Compassion UK
We love partnering with Compassion UK, and as a church we’ve sponsored over 140 children with them in a certain part of Togo in Africa. We’ve also provided funding for a Child Survival Programme which was raised during our final Building Fund Gift Day in 2019. Through this partnership with Compassion we’re helping to release children from extreme poverty in Jesus name.
Rather than try to pull together our own Carol service in this unusual and difficult time, we’re delighted to partner with Compassion. Join us at 6.30pm at WelcomeChurch.online, bring the whole family and let’s be ready to sing along at home!
On December 24th we have our Christmas Eve online communion
Our online communion meetings are very precious, and what better way to kick off your Christmas than to gather with your family and church to remember Jesus and all he’s done for us? It starts at 6.30pm on Zoom and lasts for about an hour. All the details are in the picture below. Let’s intentionally put Jesus at the heart of our Christmas celebrations this year.
Finally, on Christmas Day we have a Christmas Day Family Meeting
It starts at 10am prompt at WelcomeChurch.online and will last for about 30 minutes. It will be lots of fun for all the family and a great way to remember what Christmas is all about. Don’t be late or you’ll miss it 😃.
After that we’ll be back with a Sunday meeting to kick off the New Year, on Sunday January 3rd at WelcomeChurch.online.
Whatever you’re up to this year, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.
Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our faith in Jesus and, because we can’t be together this year in the way we’d like to, we’ve created the Welcome Church Video Advent Calendar 🎅🏼🎁😃
Each day during advent, including on Christmas Day itself, we’ll be releasing a short video to help us focus on Jesus and connect with one another. In these videos we’ll be hearing the Christmas Story from the Bible, enjoying some Christmas themed encouragement and finding out from some Welcome Church people what Christmas means for them.
Why not take this opportunity to watch each day’s message as a family and share the run up to Christmas together?
This Christmas will be different from any we’ve known before, so let’s really make sure we connect with Jesus and connect together as a church too.
There are FIVE ways to access the Advent Calendar:
You can receive it as a daily What’s App message direct to your mobile phone (instructions given below)
‘Belonging’ is really important to us at Welcome Church, and our Life Groups help make this a reality.
In a church of our size you can’t know everyone, but everyone can be known, and our Life Groups provide a chance to gather with a small group of people to experience fun, care, connection and spiritual growth. Currently the groups are happening online, but we fully expect ‘in person’ meetings to resume during 2021.
Refreshing our Life Groups gives us all a moment to review where we’d like to be in the year ahead, and to either recommit where we are or else try a different group. Our current groups have been running longer than originally planned due to Coronavirus. They’ve done a great job keeping us connected as a church family and I want to express my personal thanks to all who’ve been leading during this time.
The Refresh Process
Our current Life Groups will continue to run up to Christmas. Over the Christmas period we’ll have a short break, and new groups will then start in the week commencing 11th January 2021.
To make sure you’re part of a group in 2021, even if you want to stay in your current group, please sign up online from now until the 14th December.
On our Welcome Church website there’s a list of all the groups available in 2021, with a description of the type of group it is, and a photo of the group leaders. You can visit that here: allwelcome.uk/lifegroups.
To help us place everyone in a group that works for them, we ask people to choose three options from the list of groups. If you want to remain in a group you’re already in then, assuming it’s still running, that choice will be given priority for you.
During the week commencing 3rd January 2021 you should receive an invite to join your group for 2021.
If you have any difficulty please ask your current Life Group Leaders for help, or email us at email@example.com and we will help you through the process.
New Choices For 2021
This year the refresh provides a new option in addition to the regular Life Groups. Three groups are designated specifically as Bible study groups. These groups will look at a different aspect of the Bible each term, to help you establish a routine of reading the Bible and to understand more of this wonderful, life-giving book.
I also want to mention our Daytime Life Groups which are for anyone who prefers to meet in the daytime. Whilst historically these groups have often ended up serving an older age group, we’re keen to emphasise that they are available to all, regardless of age. If daytime suits you best, please pick these options.
Please do take the time to prayerfully consider this opportunity to connect and grow over the coming year. We want everyone who calls Welcome Church their church to know that they belong.