“People need content, but they also need connection. Disciples are made in small groups.”
Lessons From 2020
No one would argue with the assertion that this has been a year of unprecedented challenge for the church. Outreach magazine wanted to learn directly from leaders on the front lines about how their churches have been innovating, meeting people’s needs and serving as a force for healing.
Here, Michael Fletcher, senior pastor of Manna Church (Fastest-Growing 55, Largest 37) in Fayetteville, North Carolina, relates his thoughts on the global pandemic, the recent and ongoing racial tensions and how leading the church is changing.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we partnered with local businesses to give away 40,000 pounds of chicken to those in need. We set up our largest location as a COVID-19 testing site. When the crisis first hit, we gave 7,200 N95 masks to our local hospital. Some school-age kids in our county depend on breakfast and lunch being provided when they attend school, so when schools closed, we fed kids daily in 14 schools in our county.
We felt it was important to meet the needs of our congregation during this turbulent time, so we sent them a regathering survey. The results were, as one might expect, varied. So rather than cater to just one population, we offered different services, based on our congregants’ level of comfort. We designated some locations and service times as standard services, others as “spacious” services and some as services online.
We are a small groups church, so we already had hundreds of small groups in operation before the crisis. However, to accommodate those who were not already in a small group we opened 66 additional online groups, which filled up immediately.
Doing church online (and I don’t mean just doing services online) is a part of the new normal for the body of Christ. It is imperative. But a word of caution here: We have to increase the resources we provide online. People need content, but they also need connection. Disciples are made in small groups. Services without additional connections with people will not cut it.
Our church is a multiracial church; in fact, our church family is 52% minorities. As of late, there has been a lot of pain, some new and some old. Sadly, for some of our older members, this is nothing new. They have lived through this before. Some of our younger members are experiencing that America is not yet the land they had hoped it would be. All through this time we have made clear statements concerning God’s hatred of hatred and his heart for reconciliation. According to 2 Corinthians 5, the church has a major role to play in this. In this hour the church needs to lead the way in reconciliation; it’s part of our mandate as the people of God.