How not to lose those who came to virtual services
How do we hold on to those who came to our virtual services? The bad news is we can’t do it. Some came because their church did not have any online services and when churches open again they will go back. Then there is another reason they came: Disabled people, the chronically sick and people who for whatever reason cannot make a physical service found a service they could attend. The rush to reopen, to get back to normal, could leave the most vulnerable people out in the cold.
I understand the need for a return to normal. Logically it makes no sense to return to a less than perfect systems when now if the perfect opportunity to improve things but people are emotionally worn out by change and are in need of the relative stability of the familiar. I would say that as the Covid crisis continues the need for stability will get stronger.
Following the science, which I see as the only logical route, is following change. Covid is a new virus. As we learn more about this virus and its variants and as different variants the advice changes. We need to follow the latest advice, not advice scientists were making in April 2020, a lot has changed in our knowledge since then.
I believe that the time in shutdown has uncovered a need for church online that will not go away. There is a need that will not go away and it is not just the disabled and chronically sick that are effected.
Wheb the Church of Fools was launched in 2004 (Changed to St Pixels: Church of the internet in 2006) we were meaning to reach out to computer gamers. That did not happen, few of us were gamers, but we did become the only church for people who could not assess a physical church and also people who had lapsed from attending church. Talking with these it became clear that repentance was needed for what had caused them to stop attending, and that that repentance was often needed from the church. It was the behaviour of people on authority in churches and others in congregations whose positions could not be challenged. We helped some of these people back to faith, some even returned to physical church. Some not. There is a need for online churches which have been hurt by people in physical churches. I found some of the behaviour that had driven some from Christ I had heard taught by some Evangelicals. I hope and that I have become a better, more loving Evangelical Christian as a result. When St Pixels moved Facebook the running of services became more complex, everything needing to be times and the flexibilty of running services at the speed of the people responding was lost. These contributed to the ending of St Pixels services. To reach people we need an online presence and we need to keep it simple.
The other are where I have had less than ideal experience of Church is as an autistic Christian I find a lot of church harmful and the refusal to change when this is brought up abusive. The healthy buzz before or after the service is an unhealthy buzz for me, I cannot turn off. The service is fine for me as everyone is doing the same thing, but some with sound sensitivity may not be able to worship in a large congregation. All you need to do is listen to us.
The Bible takes away our right to discriminate, Jesus is for everyone – Yes, everyone. God is accessible, if what we do in church is inaccessible to people for reason of disability, trauma, harmful theology or because you come over as a jerk, what are you doing about it?