On Monday the government announced a “Four Step” process for unlocking as a nation following the pandemic. This Sunday morning at Welcome Church Online I’m going to be sharing news about how these steps affect us as a church, and about the principles behind our plans for returning to in person meetings.
Each week we go live at 9.45, and this information will be shared at some point before 10. Make sure you don’t miss it!
This Sunday (24th Jan) sees the start of our new approach to Sunday meetings at Welcome Church with the launch of Live Streaming at welcomechurch.online. One, live streamed, weekly meeting will replace the pre-recorded meetings we’ve been creating each week since lockdown began last March.
We will be “going live at 9.45”
The new Sunday morning schedule means that the Welcome Kids meetings will be streamed at the new time of 9am, and you can then stay tuned for the full Sunday meeting afterwards.
Why switch to live streaming?
Live streaming does carry some risks and challenges! For example if the internet goes down at our building, or we hit up against some other technical issue, we could lose the stream. If we make mistakes we can’t edit them out 🙂. Live Streaming is also technically more difficult to deliver well and can’t be subtitled in advance. But there are some BIG advantages too, which relate to our Welcome Church Recovery Plan and will help us towards a return to normal church life:
We can all be together in real time
We will be live in real time and able to interact with one another more easily. We can more easily share family news and updates. We can all be ‘together’ in the same place at the same time (albeit online!)
Lots of us used to enjoy times of fellowship on a Sunday at the start and close of each meeting. Live streaming will allow us to recreate some of that community as we interact through the chat, which the meeting hosts will be able to see and respond to in real time.
Be aware though: it also means that if you miss the meeting when it’s live … you’ve missed it – so set your alarm clock and be there!
It will create a good ‘runway’ for the return to in person meetings
Live Streaming means that, when the time is right, people can attend the live streamed meetings in person. Of course, at the right time, we want to have everyone back in the building and return to a Biblical pattern of church life together, but that still seems to be some way off despite the vaccine. Live streaming will allow us to serve a congregation in the building and at home at the same time, and for us to still all be together as one church.
When restrictions ease enough so that in person meetings can be done in a safe and effective way, we will let you know and people will be able to book places.
Lets make the most of this live stream
Let’s all use this new opportunity to help RENEW our relationships with one another, to RENEW an increasingly Biblical pattern of church life together, to RENEW our sense of adventure together, to REFRESH our vision as Welcome Church, to REFRESH our rhythm of weekly life as a church, to REBUILD our faith for this mission together and to REBUILD our core Sunday meetings.
Live Streaming is a significant step towards our RECOVERY as a church. See you onSunday, live at 9.45.
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.
… 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.
I’ve loved seeing us put our faith in action as a church to help people in need recently. For example, during the recent half term holidays, we helped a number of families in need here in Woking. These families get free school meals for their children in term time, and we were able to give them some much needed vouchers to feed their children during the holidays too. It was greatly appreciated and made a real difference.
We’re also helping out financially in two situations where we have direct connection to churches in other nations. I shared about these during our recent online communion meeting and invited people to give.
The first is in Izmir in Turkey, where an earthquake and tsunami killed 115 people, injured more than 1000, and left many homeless bringing down buildings and making others unsafe to use.
A church in Izmir who we have direct connection with are providing food to people in need and to rescue workers. They’re meeting the needs of many who’ve been left homeless who are living in tents as the weather gets colder. Amongst other things they’re providing food, heaters, firewood, hats, socks and thermal clothing. They’ve also been able to share God’s love with people.
As a church their funds to do this ran out, but (along with some others) we’ve been able to send them money to help the work continue.
The other situation is in the Philippines where two typhoons in rapid succession have hit the region of Bicol with winds of up to 225mph. Commission has a church plant starting in a home in that area, but the home was totally destroyed, along with the homes of some other church members. This level of destruction of people’s lives is replicated all around the area and comes on top of crops being destroyed by a volcano recently, and the impact of Covid.
The Christians in our churches there are often incredibly poor, yet incredibly joy filled. Again, as a church, we’ve been able to send money to help them survive and rebuild.
It’s not too late to help
It’s not too late for you to give to either of these situations, and the good news is the money will go directly to the church there; we know the people and we know how it will be used. If you want to help please give a gift to us as a church and mark it ‘crisis’.You can do that through our website here. We will pass on every penny including the gift aid if it applies.
So far just under £6000 has been raised, which is being split between these two causes. We sent the initial amount out last week, but it’s not too late to grow that amount so more can be sent.
Remember: “Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.” (Proverbs 19 v17)
In case you missed them here are some updates from our Welcome Church family regarding elders, staff, the new Lockdown and Sunday meetings:
At our vision focus evening we were delighted to propose two people to join our eldership team: Nnamdi Anyaegbunam and Robin Willison. Both of these are a real gift to our church and a model of godly leadership and life; we recommend them to you wholeheartedly.
We would love to hear your endorsement of these choices and equally, if you have any Biblical concerns, please let us know. How and when they will be appointed during Covid remains to be seen!
Rhea John and Peter Leach have both now left our employment. They had been on furlough for a while as their roles were not possible during Covid.
Rhea has secured a much sought after job in London as a civil servant, a role she was pursuing before she joined us. Peter has now officially retired. We will miss them around the offices, but they will remain part of our church family.
Impact Of The New Lockdown
The new Lockdown has impacted some of what we do:
The church offices are closed for the next four weeks with all staff working at home
Recruitment of new staff (bearing in mind that Ben Martin, Peter Leach and Rhea John have all left us during Lockdown!) has been put on hold until the crisis has passed. This will both help us financially and allow us to fully assess what roles we need most for the future.
Welcome Youth had planned to start ‘in person’ meetings this week, but this will be delayed until this Lockdown ends. Youth Alpha starts online tonight, so pray for them
Our day time Life Groups were working towards some in person meetings in the building and these will now also be delayed until after Lockdown
Some things remain unchanged:
Sundays will continue online as before
Prayer meetings will continue online on Tuesday and Friday mornings
Our Life Group refresh will continue as planned
Baptisms can go ahead as planned unless the Lockdown is extended
Our new Leadership Development course continues online
Live Streaming on Sundays
At Vision Focus I announced our intention to move away from a ‘pre-recorded’ approach to Sunday meetings and towards Live Streaming, with whatever congregation we are allowed to have ‘in person’, from early January.
It is possible (not definite) that the start date may be delayed slightly because we need to do significant technical training for some volunteers, and Lockdown 2 is making that difficult. Regardless, our direction of travel remains the same.
Finally, please pray for Alan and Beryl Hunwicks. Alan is a former elder and a current trustee of Welcome Church, and Beryl is a local councillor and the Mayor of Woking.
Alan fell down a flight of stairs and has been in hospital. Sadly we heard today that he now has Coronavirus with some clear symptoms. The hospital are unsure how he caught it. He has been transferred to the Covid ward. Please pray for Alan’s full recovery, and also for Beryl, who is not allowed to visit.
And remember …
… in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purposes. (Romans 8v28)
We are not abandoned or forgotten. God is at work for his glory and his purposes, even now.
From Thursday onwards we will be back in Lockdown for 4 weeks. After that, who knows? We will each face many challenges in the weeks ahead, and we need to support one another.
As we go through this season let’s remember: God is still on his throne. He’s at work in our lives, our church, our nation and the nations of the world. Let’s pray for His kingdom to come and His will to be done.
As this season begins, I want to point us all to three things:
1. Stay Connected
We need to stay connected to each other and to God during this time. We are God’s church and we need each other more than ever right now.
Today (Sunday 1st Nov) at 6.30pm we have our next Welcome Church online communion. PLEASE JOIN US! WE NEED YOU!
Join us to pray. Join us to worship. Join us for fellowship. Join us as we meet with Jesus together. Join us to hear the latest updates and information.
Let’s all stay connected in the weeks ahead as we pray online, as we meet online each Sunday, and as we gather online in Life Groups and in other ways. We will continue to put information and updates out in this blog, in our Facebook group and in our emails. If you need help connecting, just ask.
We need each other more than ever in these times.
2. Keep A Godly Attitude
As Christians we’re called to pray for those in authority (1 Tim 2v1-3) and to submit to them (Romans 13v1-7). Are you praying for our government regularly during this season?
Some of us will agree with how we’re being led; others will disagree. Either way, as Christians, let’s respond in prayer and with loving words and actions, and not in complaining, political ranting and self righteousness.
As Christians – and being a Christian is a 24/7 ‘all of life’ thing that applies even to what we post online – let’s be careful and diligent to shine brightly for Jesus right now; He wants to reach people through us.
3. Show Love To People
All around us right now people need support in different ways. This is true of people in the church, in our families, and in the wider community.
1 John 4v10-11 says:
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.“
Jesus laid down his life for us and we’re called to live as Jesus lived. Let’s all be on the front foot to show love to others in every way we can: helping, encouraging, calling, messaging, caring, assisting, serving, giving, building one another up … and in so many other ways too
As we show love to others we find that not only do we do them good, but our own sense of helplessness, anger or frustration is lifted as we see Jesus at work through us.