TCO Talks 20 Ways to Prepare Your Congregation to Return to Worship

TCO Talks: 20 Ways to Prepare Your Congregation to Return to Worship

  1. Take necessary precautions.
    Chances are, much of your congregation will be a bit nervous about returning to worship with a large group of people, post-pandemic. By continuing to push social distancing measures, offering ample hand sanitizer, and acknowledging the concerns your congregation may have, those who return to worship will feel more comfortable and assured.
  2. Preach a message of hope.
    When your congregation returns to worship, they will likely be weary from the COVID-19 crisis. If they return to a message of hope and optimism, they will leave the worship service feeling more refreshed and positive about the future. As church leaders, it is our responsibility to deliver that hope to our congregations.
  3. Continue offering livestream worship services.
    Some members of your congregation might not feel ready to return to physical worship when your church’s doors open again – and that’s okay. It is important to keep those people engaged as part of the church family. Continuing to offer livestream worship services is an effective way of doing so.
  4. Stay active on social media.
    During the COVID-19 crisis, social media has been a lifeline for congregations to stay in touch and support one another. It is crucial to maintain a social media presence, not only for those who are still reluctant to return to a physical worship space, but also for those who have simply grown accustomed to using social media to interact with church leaders and fellowship with friends. Doing so will foster that sense of community within your congregation.
  5. Nourish your congregation.
    When it comes to caring for your congregation, little things can go a long way. Having some extra coffee and donuts available on Sunday morning will do wonders for your weary congregation’s morale, enabling them to feel nourished and focused on living out their faith and worshipping together.
  6. Honor your heroes.
    Your church has members who are fighting COVID-19 on the front lines. Doctors, nurses, first responders, and more are risking their own wellbeing to serve others. What better way to honor them than by taking some time to acknowledge their important contributions to the communities they serve?
  7. Make yourself available.
    With the added anxieties and concerns that a pandemic brings about, church leaders must make themselves available to hear the cries of their congregation. Whether that means offering a simple word of prayer or some form of counseling, making yourself available will go a long way toward preparing your congregation to return to the sanctuary on Sunday morning.
  8. Outline what to expect.
    When returning to worship, church members may not know what to expect. If you can outline what they can expect when they walk into church on Sunday morning, you will put them at ease.
  9. Provide opportunities to serve.
    Often times, the best way to prepare a congregation to return to worship is to involve them in a service opportunity. Offering to pack meals for the poor, serve essential workers, or even volunteer to read scripture on Sunday can make church members feel more valued and important, leading to an increased determination to return to worship.
  10. Acknowledge suffering.
    Now is not the time to sugar coat what is going on in the world. Yes, there is suffering present, and yes it must be addressed, but it should be clothed in a message of hope and optimism, because although it may seem difficult, we will all get through this COVID-19 crisis.
  11. Prepare yourself and your leaders.
    Hold conferences, conduct meetings, whether in person or virtually, and above all, continue to nurture your own faith. If you are not prepared to return to worship, your congregation will sense it and be more apprehensive about returning to worship themselves.
  12. Get creative.
    If you have limitations on how many people can attend worship, consider holding multiple worship services or adding a service or two to your schedule. Think about alternative ways to conduct communion. What would a no-contact communion service look like? Getting creative will turn your limitations into luxuries as you navigate the post-COVID-19 landscape.
  13. Hold your congregation accountable.
    Just because your congregation hasn’t physically been in church doesn’t mean they should neglect their faith. On the contrary, they (and you) should lean on that faith. Make sure you remind your congregation that they have a purpose and that their faith is important.
  14. Encourage greater connection.
    It is one thing to stay connected via social media. It is quite another to reach out with a purposeful phone call and word of prayer. Encourage members of your congregation to connect beyond the confines of their computer screens. Have them make phone calls, write notes of encouragement, or serve those in need, when the time is right.
  15. Remember the children.
    Young children are particularly susceptible to fear during this pandemic. Don’t forget how important they are to your church and the Lord. Address them and their concerns to prepare the whole family for returning to worship.
  16. Be realistic about programming.
    Sure, some events at your church had to be cancelled and still others postponed. But it is critical to be realistic about what programs your church can and will offer post-pandemic. Set reasonable goals for reopening and be flexible with those goals as this crisis continues playing out.
  17. Keep things as normal as possible.
    Will there be restrictions and changes to worship after COVID-19 calms down? Absolutely. However, keeping worship as normal to its pre-pandemic state as possible will allow your congregation to get back into a regular groove when it comes to worship. If there is a worship song you typically sing at the beginning of worship, continue singing that song! If there are particular prayers you use, continue using those as well. These signs of normalcy will be welcomed by your congregation.
  18. Celebrate.
    Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings – these things don’t need to be put on pause due to COVID-19. Find out who has reason to celebrate and honor them on social media and, when the time comes, in a church setting as well.
  19. Exude confidence.
    We WILL get through this pandemic. As church leaders, we must remind both ourselves and our congregations that this crisis will come to a conclusion. Having confidence doesn’t mean downplaying the threat of the pandemic; it simply means trusting in our Almighty God.
  20. Give glory to God.
    The only one who can see us through this process is God Himself. Give Him all the glory as you strive to prepare a proper worship space for your congregations to return to. He is the One who will give you that confidence, that assurance, and that strength.

TCO Talks Teamwork

Question: Why is it important to tackle issues with your ministry using a team approach?

Answer: People have a variety of different skill sets. While one person might be an excellent written communicator, someone else might thrive in aspects of technical knowledge, and still another might inspire others with rousing speeches and powers of persuasion. It is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every member of your team.

One way you can assess those strengths and weaknesses is through taking aptitude tests and interest surveys. These guideposts can inform you as to specific areas where team members are gifted, as well as areas where they have an interest. Teamwork is particularly important when it comes to ministry settings because it is scriptural.

In the gospels, Jesus knew the strengths and weaknesses of his disciples, and he was able to use their passion and talents to create the very foundations of the early church. Sometimes, we even find that we are able to turn weaknesses into strengths, with help from others and from the Lord.

As a leader within the church, one of your chief jobs is to inspire and motivate others to go forth and use their gifts and graces to spread the gospel. Taking inventory and monitoring your own ability to lead often will be key in ensuring that others are spiritually nourished and inspired. Some guiding questions you can ask yourself are: How is God equipping me to lead? What gifts do I see in others? What weaknesses do I see and how can I turn those weaknesses into strengths? By developing and nurturing a team-first approach to ministry, you will surely see your flock increase in number and in their faith!

TCO Talks Target Audiences

Question: Why is it important to target your media content to specific audiences?

Answer: Generating content for specific audiences will enable you to more effectively reach different audiences and create a sense of bonding and loyalty. Think about it: we speak differently to people depending on their particular age, gender, and background. By creating content that does the same, we are identifying with our audiences. This is important because we want to cultivate a sense of connection among the people we serve.

So, what does this look like in practice? As with timing your content, the goal is to meet people where they are. Instagram tends to skew younger, and TikTok, younger still, whereas Facebook’s users tend to be older. Younger users are also more likely to engage with video content, but for shorter periods of time than older users. Therefore, a bite-sized 1-2 minute video might fare well on Instagram (if it is longer than 1 minute, you’ll have to use the IGTV feature) with younger audiences.

Additionally, you want to know your followers. Do an audit: what is their average age? What sort of professions do they have? By doing an audit as to the makeup of your followers on social media, you will better be able to create a “mock follower”. This is the person you will want to target with much of your content. While it is important to branch out and create content for different age groups, if you have far fewer youth followers than adult followers, you’ll want to create more content that suits those adult followers, while creating outreach content to attract more youth to your social channels.

The makeup of your social followers may change over time, so it is imperative that you take inventory every few months or so to see who is following your social channels.


TCO Talks Tech

Question: “What is the one thing many churches tend to overlook that could significantly contribute to their growth…especially during COVID-19?”

Answer: Technology.

We live in the age of connectivity. If you live in Rochester, NY but want to worship with your friends down in El Paso, streaming technology has you covered. Want to post a video of yourself singing as part of a virtual choir? Video editing technology has you covered. And, if you feel like your church is losing its footing during COVID-19, technology has you covered. So, why invest in technological resources now? Because you have a unique opportunity to connect with your congregation.

The time is now to get creative! Start thinking of ways in which you can utilize and implement technology to engage members of your congregation. You can stream worship services, hold a virtual Bible Study, and post photos of your own unique faith journey to social media. If you have events that you hold at your house of worship, consider how you might make those events digital. Congregations need to stay engaged and feel God’s love during this crisis. Give them that gift by being proactive and creative when it comes to optimizing your church’s technology.

Be sure to follow The Church Online on our social media platforms for weekly tips on using technology and other avenues to engage your congregation during the COVID-19 crisis! We understand that churches are in uncharted territory, and it is our aim to do whatever we can to help your congregation thrive during these uncertain times.

TCO Talks Tithing

Question: What are three ways you can encourage giving within your congregation during the COVID-19 crisis?

Answer: Highlight your heroes, Offer digital offerings, Sprint to social media

Highlight your heroes: Chances are, within your congregation, there are people fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. If you highlight the important work these heroes are doing in the community, you show those in your congregation that you are supporting those on the front lines. Giving is spurred by empathy and exposure, and the more you expose your congregation to your heroes, the more empathy they will have for them and the mission of your church.

Offer digital offerings: Giving doesn’t have to involve cash and collection plates. As a matter of fact, plenty of church giving happens via digital platforms, such as the Cash App. If you give your congregation more avenues of giving their tithes and offerings, they will surely reward the extra effort. Additionally, you’ll give your church a leg up in the evolution of giving within congregations, as many millennials hardly handle cash anymore.

Sprint to social media: Social media has several things going for it: it’s fast, it’s accessible, and it’s free. Many members of your congregation likely have at least a Facebook account. Many more may take to Twitter or Instagram. By posting links where users can give, as well as promoting your heroes, you can increase that all-important empathy and exposure even more. Did I mention social media is free? You can pay to promote your posts if you wish, but if you just want to get the message out, doing so is free of charge.

Churches today need to get creative to bring in revenue, and this can be difficult, particularly without that reverent worship space bringing crowds every Sunday. However, with patience, planning, and a degree of ingenuity, you can ensure your church’s giving thrives during this time.    

3 Steps to Reaching your Target Audience on Social Media

Social media use continues to grow tremendously with 2.32 billion monthly users on Facebook, over 1 billion users on Instagram, and 321 million active on Twitter.[1]  There is great potential to grow your organization’s following through social media use, but don’t just post blindly. Use these strategic steps to begin effectively reaching your target audience on various social media platforms.

1. Define your Audience

Make sure you know who you want to specifically reach. Too often, we go crazy posting everything everywhere, hoping that it will reach everyone. Instead, define who you want to reach before you waste your time with ineffective posts. One easy way to do this is by creating a target audience persona [2]. A good place to start with your persona is by defining your target age, gender, and lifestyle interests.

2. Know Where your Audience Is

After you have defined who you want to target, consider social media trends and statistics so you know where to reach your audience. Out of all the different social media platforms, the most popular are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, with women consistently using all platforms more often than men.

3. Target your Audience

Once you have defined who your audience is and the platforms they’re using, you can begin to curate targeted content. Make sure to consider your audience’s general lifestyle and interests when curating content to be sure it sparks their interest! If you are trying to attract more college-aged students to your church, you’ll want to create more modern looking posts for Instagram. If you want to attract older adults to attend your conference, spend a little more time on Facebook. A great idea is to post real images of people that look like your target audience to attract them to joining a community like them.

You don’t want any information to slip through the cracks, so you may be tempted to post everything, everywhere, without change. It is ok to post the same information across all platforms but be sure to switch things up a bit. Twitter is great for short pieces of quick information, Instagram is better for visuals, Facebook seems to be a platform that can do it all, and YouTube features videos. By varying your content to the demographics and interests of your audience, you will begin to see higher retention, following, and engagements.

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Don’t waste any more time, make sure you find out who your audience is, understand where they are, and target them strategically.


[2] Downloadable Persona Template

Creating a Book Cover

Selling More Books with your Cover

When you think about the process of creating a book, most people jump right to writing the book. That’s the first step in a long process, but what will take your book from anonymity to bestseller is a compelling cover. Your cover gives a potential reader a first impression of your book, and a boring or generic cover means that they may never even pick it up off of a shelf or off of the table.
So, here are 4 tips for you to nail that cover design!

1. Choose colors that match the tone of your book.

When you first begin thinking about your cover, take time to think what colors the contents of your book evokes. If your book is a cold, hardboiled detective novel, you’ll want to choose darker, cooler colors, like blue and black, to help convey the mood of the book to your reader. If you’re writing a devotional or educational book, you may want to opt into warmer colors, like golds and reds.
When you choose a color that matches the tone of your book, you can connect with your target audience more quickly. If your book is designed for women over men, you may want to choose colors that resonate with women more than men. For example, blue is the most popular color across genders, but of men surveyed, less than 1% preferred the color purple. For women, however, 23% preferred the color purple.

Orange, however, is the most common least favorite color, followed by brown, and then purple and yellow. When you consider your cover, you may want to avoid these colors simply due to the subconscious impressions that they can leave on the minds of prospective readers.
Age is another thing to keep in mind because color preference changes as we age. Green is preferred by younger crowds, but as we age, purple becomes more popular. Those in the 70+ age group almost exclusively prefer blue and white. Yellow also isn’t popular unless you are targeting the 36-69 age group.

2. Look at other covers in your genre.

When you create a book, you are always writing within a genre, and often, you will find yourself writing in a subgenre as well. Your book may be a devotional, but it may also be a devotional for women based on the women of the bible. To differentiate yourself from other books in your genre, you need to make sure that your cover doesn’t come too close to theirs. Instead, you want it to look new and fresh.

For example, if the theme of your book is “adventure” you would want to start by searching for other covers in your genre. Then, take inspiration from the best ones that you see. Make a note about what you like about them. When you get an idea of what you like about the covers, take time to figure out if that is overused. If every adventure novel has a picture of a silhouetted person walking off into the distance, you may want to consider avoiding that cliché. You may also want to take a more stylistic or illustrative approach.
In addition to making notes about what you like, make a note about what you dislike. If you find that the common colors of the novels in your genre don’t resonate with your book, be sure to avoid those. If you’re writing a book on dieting and are tired of seeing images of scales and people going from heavy to thin, consider an abstract cover to draw in readers.

3. Pick a style

When you create your cover, you need to pick a style for it. This can be illustrative, photorealistic, abstract, symbolic, or even textured. To do this, it is imperative that you look at the other covers in your genre.

Almost all fantasy books have illustrative covers, so it might create dissonance or a false impression to your reader if you use a photorealistic cover. If your book is targeted at young adults, you may want to consider using either a photorealistic or illustrative depiction of a main character. Sci-fi tends to use symbolic covers. So, while you want to set your cover apart, you don’t want to alienate your audience, and you don’t want to hoodwink potential readers.

4. Ask for an honest opinion.

Whether you are a cover designer or a writer, it is important that you let others know your ideas before you implement them. You might think that a photo that you took of a sunset on your cellphone is the perfect photo for the cover of your book, but it is important that you ask others if that is a good idea. Oftentimes, we can get overwhelmed with excitement and make bad design choices.
When you ask for honest feedback from people who understand books and the market, you can make informed decisions. Then, you can access your widest possible audience.

Making Events a Breeze

4 ways to make event planning easy!

When events come up, you may find yourself stressed out, desperately trying to put together advertisements and e-blasts. Your team might be scavenging sold-out palm branches for Easter or buying over-priced poinsettias for Christmas, and you may even have a key member of your church play come down with a cold. While we can’t prevent everything, by employing some foresight we can make major events as pain-free as possible.

1. Keep a calendar

Often times, you will find that the same events occur at the same time every year. Christmas doesn’t change, Mother’s Day is predictable, and kids always go back to school. By taking the time to set reminders, sometimes two or more months out, about important holidays and events, you can save time and money. If you are buying school supplies for back-to-school events, you may want to purchase them up to a year in advance right after the back to school sales become back-to-school clearance. By preparing ahead, you will save yourself a last-minute scramble.

Additionally, by keeping a calendar and being prepared, you will avoid last minute stress and so will your staff and volunteers. Instead of asking people to run to the store to get last minute items, by preparing and planning months ahead of time, you will have time to think of everything that you will need.

2. Choose a theme early

Sometimes themes come with the event, like Christmas, but other times by preparing and choosing a theme ahead of time, you can make weeks of headway. If your theme for Watch Night is remembrance and thankfulness, the planning will look different from a “looking forward” theme. With this in mind, by picking a theme early, you can have advertisements done weeks ahead of time and sermons written well ahead of time, too.

3. Market ahead of time!

One of the best ways to turn your event into a success is to let people know early. While Martin Luther King Day may come around every year, attendees might forget unless they are reminded. People are much more likely to attend your event if you tell them about it well ahead of time. That way, they can mark the time out of their schedule before it fills up. This is especially important for weekday events or events on popular family holidays like Christmas and New Year’s. Often times a month’s advance notice will help people to plan their schedules to fit the Church schedule. If they don’t hear until a week before, they are much less likely to attend.

4. Get Creative

By getting your ideas together ahead of time, you have the opportunity to get creative with you advertising, event themes, and event planning. When you have time to be creative, your event will be a greater success. People who don’t typically attend your church may be wowed by the event from the advertisement to the execution. When you rush an event, the end product will be less creative and less impressive. By putting your best foot forward for events, you are more likely to attract involved, new members for your church.

Additionally, by taking time to be creative, you can set your event apart from other events in the area. If your Easter play is rehearsed and planned months ahead, you will have a leg up when it comes to marketability. Instead of having prospective members asking, “Why should I go see that play?” they will be saying “I heard that play is the best in town!” By practicing excellence and good planning, you can easily get people into the doors of your church.

Women in Ministry: Avoiding Overscheduled Lives

Women in Ministry: Avoiding Overscheduled Lives

We all know that bills, home repairs, children and their demands, relationships, and work stress can take a toll on us. When we add volunteer work in school, the community, or church, even hobbies and previously enjoyable ministry work can overwhelm and fatigue us. As women often entrusted with the role of family nurturer and caregiver, our instincts are to take on everyone else’s stress as well. Sometimes we are telling everyone else that it’s all going to be okay, and we are feeling quite the opposite ourselves: unable to sleep or function in our once calm and enjoyable lives.

We have the tendency to focus on the negative when we feel that pleasurable activities have become a burden. In our last post on women and burnout in ministry, we learned that we all go through the same stress cycle, and that many times this cycle is so familiar to us that we just allow, rather than stop, the destructive patterns of behavior. While we aren’t suggesting that any of us deliberately seek destructive patterns, we can all admit that we do tend to take on too much sometimes and then seem to think that it is our responsibility to handle the stress on our own.

However, if we remember that God sends so many truly good things our way, we can begin to focus on the positive in life again, despite having many roles as mother, wife, employee, and/or ministry leader. We can all enjoy the sunset at the end of a long day spent at work, tending to family, or working in ministry. And we can all appreciate the comfort of a warm bed, a meal prepared just for us, conversations with our children and friends, and the devotion of a husband or other close family member. These things help us. They refocus us. We need to begin to see as everyday blessings—the ebb and flow of a busy life that also allows for downtime and the simple enjoyment of the little things.