Churches all over the world are strategizing about relaunching services. Some are re-opening sooner rather than later, some are doing a hybrid model.
Matt Steen, Co-Founder of Chemistry Staffing, interviews Andy Martin, Pastor of Church Relations at LCBC (Lives Changed By Christ) in Manheim, PA, to explore his thoughts about what things look like in the foreseeable future.
Watch the conversation or view the transcript.
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Read the Full Transcript
Matt: Well hey, I'm Matt Steen. Thank you guys for tuning in for another Chemistry conversation. Today I am joined by Andy Martin who is the Pastor of Church Relations at LCBC, which is Lives Changed by Christ. It's a church, the central campus is in Manheim, Pennsylvania, but you guys have about 4.7 million campuses or something like that all over the world. How many campuses do you have these days?
Andy: There's fifteen right now all over South Central Pennsylvania.
Matt: Fifteen campuses all over South Central Pennsylvania, so you guys have a lot to be thinking about as we get to this point of, how do we reopen our building, what does transition back into somewhat normal church go. So really, what we're having these conversations about right now is just what are you guys thinking through as you start to think about reopening? What principles are you guys using to kind of shape your thinking, and how are you guys going about it?
Andy: Well thanks for having me and asking me that, Matt. I appreciate it. It's interesting too, you just said this. We've got campuses all over South Central Pennsylvania, but we've got locations that are 6,000 at one location, 1,500, or it could go down to 100 or 200. So the whole spectrum of sizes. And even one was supposed to launch. Their opening day was supposed to be March 15th, so we had to pull the plug. We have a brand-new building, and it's just sitting there. The location pastor is a volunteer guy. They've been meeting in the basement of a YMCA for a year, and they're up to about 65, and we think they would have launched with over 100. And the pastor is sitting there going, “It’s like having a brand-new car and having to park it in the garage. I just can't do anything with it.” That was at first the mindset. But in reality, they can do things, and they are. I'll tell you that in a minute. But they're doing great stuff. When the crisis first hit, David our Senior Pastor laid out three guidelines for us to work with. And it was, engage with God like you never have before. Make sure you're staying close, obviously. Engage with God, engage with each other - our staff and our congregation. And so with that, we have made sure that every person on our rosters have been contacted with either a phone call from either a staff or volunteer at least once every two weeks. So that's thirty some-odd thousand people that everybody's getting a call. And the results of that have been amazing. People who maybe haven't been in attendance in months or maybe a year, they're getting a call, how are you doing, and they pray for them. It's been great. The stories are just worth it. We're saying, hey we probably ought to be doing that all the time, so we'll keep that one.
Engage with each other and the staff, the congregation, and then engage with the community. How can we make a difference out within our communities. As you know and everybody else knows, a lot of volunteer organizations aren't ready or can't receive waves of volunteers just because of what the COVID is. So we haven't been able to do anything about it. So they've come up with unique ways of serving their community, from simply as calling the mayor and doing a Zoom call with the mayor and praying with him to first responders to Food for Christ to blood. We're doing some blood drives because Red Cross is hammered, and it's a way that we can use portions of our buildings and get people there but control it. And the blood bankers are just desperate for it. So they've come up with food packs for kids and all kind of stuff. So all of our locations are doing it, and we pushed it more to a local expression. You figure out in your areas what you can do. That was what we started with from day one.
And we operated that for the first month and a half until kind of like now, what we've been doing since March 15th. But then started looking, okay, what happens for reentry? How do we get back into this? David is really good about pushing us to work off the worst-case scenario. What's the worst that could happen? We did that with budget and cut it and all that stuff. Actually we've found that giving has been amazing. It's surprising. So more blessed. We thought we were going to get a 50% reduction, and we just haven't seen that. It's been far better, so we're good. So working off of worst-case scenario and being Lancaster County where we're at, it's going to be associated or lumped with Philadelphia and their timing and population. The standards that are being put out, it could be months before they allow a gathering of over 50-250 people. That's just not in the cards for us. So we're working under the assumption of, what if we can't be together as normal for a year, so June 2021. And we're going to make our plans thinking that way. And if things lighten up sooner, great, we'll go back.
So our online efforts were increasing before this, but we've really doubled down on that. So our online streaming, like everybody else has, we've ramped that up. Ramped up engagement. So there's always a host in those gatherings, and so every time somebody checks in or communicates, they communicate with us, we're going to jump on it and make sure we're engaging back, having communication and starting dialogue. So that's right now and been effective. And then for reentries, we'll keep that going, the online part. And then for reentry we've said, okay, how do we get our people in groups or together for community as quickly as possible and as many of them as possible. Because they're not going to open up the flood gates. It's not going to go from 0 to 2,000 instantly. It's going to be a trickle. And with the trickle, we can do 15, 10-15 in a home. How do we disperse everybody out into that and have watch parties, watch our online streaming services together. So the main train of thought with that is how do we do that?
And there's five filters that we've kind of looked at to whatever plans we are coming up with, put them through these filters. And the first one is, focus on what you can control. We can't control when the government says that they're going to allow us to open up again or what size groups. We can't control that. They're going to. We can't control, even more important probably, is public perception. Just because the government, if they said tomorrow, “Yeah go ahead, have three thousand people in the building,” nobody's going to put their kids in the nursery. That's going to be a while. So we can't control public perception or the CDC guidelines for safety. We can't control that. But we can control and we can ensure how our people can take their next steps with Christ. And so for LCBC, we do that by gather, connect, serve, get out into the community, and live generously. Those are our five tenants. We can come up with ways for people to do all five of those things right now. We don't have to wait for the government to say, okay you can meet. We can be doing all those things. So that's what we're working on. We're working on coming up with how can we do that, those five tenants, right now with no launch gatherings.
The second thing is to keep it simple. Don't overcomplicate it. I'm a how person. So if somebody else comes up with the what, then I start thinking of the hows and all the things that have to go with it. So I'm having to resist some of that and say, you know what, just start a group. Kind of like when church planters start to do that and people start life groups, they don't think oh we've got to have a nursery. They just meet. And adults take care of their kids. They're going to figure it out. We don't have to do that for them. People are smart. So keep it simple, don't overcomplicate things. And then work within your existing structures. That's our third filter. You've already got teams. We've already got systems in place. So how can we take those people, which leads to our fourth one, and maybe repurpose those existing things. We've got folks who are hospitality or they're door greeters or they're traffic people, they've just got a mindset they like people. Well guess what, they could probably host a watch party at their house. They could just grab 8-10 people from their neighborhood or church, whatever, whenever they allow it, whenever the government says you can start meeting in groups of 15 or 20. Great, have a launch party.
So then the fifth thing would be, plan with the long term in mind. So whatever we're coming up with, hopefully it will be still in existence after this is over. So to get out of the mindset of let's put on a Band-Aid just to get through this, you know, just so we can get through this period. No, let's go ahead and plan for the long term. Because we're not going to abandon online. Carey Nieuwhof said it, I love this line, he said, “Everybody that you want to reach is online.” They're there. So now that we've all had this refocus and we've all done this online thing, “Hey we can go back to brick and mortar, let's just forget this.” No. They're going to do both. So whatever our long-term plans are, how do we make it last? What are our plans for now, how can we make them last long term? That's kind of what we're operating under right now.
Matt: That's cool. I like the fact that you guys are thinking worst-case scenario. A lot of times in the church, we're like no, we're optimistic, we've got hopeful thinking. But I think it's wise because you can always open earlier. But if you're planning on opening early and you cross that threshold and it's like now what, then you've got to blow it up again. So I like that you guys are thinking that way. I like that you guys are looking around and saying, how can we mobilize our people now in the small groups. You know, for evangelistic purposes, right. Our] neighborhoods are going to be starving for community, and if we get 4 or 5 people together for a watch party instead of watching it online just by yourself with your family. Yeah, maybe we have to put clothes on to go to church now, but get 6 or 7 people together. That's incredible. I think that's a great way to gain momentum coming out of this.
Andy: I was talking to a pastor out in Philly, it's Ken Jacobs, and he did an amazing thing. He toilet papered his neighborhood. You know, what, what do you mean he toilet papered the neighborhood? He put a roll of toilet paper in a baggie with a card that said his name and a little note that said, “Hey, thinking about you, praying for you guys, if you need anything holler.” And he put one at every doorstep in his neighborhood. It's a typical American neighborhood. He doesn't know these people. He's driving down the street, give them one of those. They've not had conversations. They don't necessarily know all of their neighborhood. And yet he said the amount of vulnerability that people are coming back with on those text messages is unbelievable. I think that people are open. They're starving for community, but they're also just open in this time of crisis to spiritual things. And so the doorway is there. If we just simply neighbor our neighbors. If we love on them, I think the opportunity is there.
Matt: That's awesome. That's awesome. Well, Andy thank you so much for sharing this. I hope more and more churches will take advantage of the opportunities that we have in front of us right now. And grateful for your time, grateful for what you guys are doing at LCBC. So thank you for sharing with our churches.
Andy: Thanks for having me, man. Good to meet you. Take care.