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Earlier this year, when churches went virtual, there was great excitement about the number of views our worship services were getting online. But then, after Easter, those numbers started to dwindle. Some churches decided to begin meeting in person again but still found that their average attendance hovered around 50% of what they usually could expect in the summer. Surely things would bounce back in the fall when the school year starts, and people are home from vacation, right?  

Probably not. 

Recently George Bullard posted that "churches are discovering people who have become inactive during COVID-19…these people have discovered that they can do life without church." Amid this reality, many councils and pastors ask: "How do we get people to come back to church?"

But what if this is the wrong question?

Of all the ministries that have had to adapt this year, campus ministry has experienced unique challenges as they are subject to university administrators' decisions. 

Campus Ministry at Grand Valley State University, which usually gathers hundreds of students for worship on Sunday nights, has had to redesign their entire ministry structure for this fall. As campus minister Scott Stark says, "We are not just playing the same game by different rules; we are playing a different game."

For the past six months, many of our churches have tried to play the same game by different rules. 

Our worship services have tried to retain much of their structure and liturgy while moving the playing field to an online or outdoor format. We have expected people to gather at the same time on Sunday mornings, even if they are now in their sweats and pajamas instead of church clothes.  

But, now, what if God is preparing the church to "play a different game" to meet the needs of a post-Christian North American society? To rethink what church is for, how the church gathers, and how we can shift from going to church to being the church? Maybe people haven't decided that they can live without the church—perhaps they are longing for new ways to be the church.

Recently, Resonate Global Mission developed a partnership with Fresh Expressions, an organization that encourages the church to develop a "mixed economy" of church. In addition to our inherited models of gathering the church, what new expressions of church could we create that will enable us to join in what God is doing today? This is the question we should be asking today, and we've created this discussion guide to help your ministry team talk about it together. We'd love to join your conversation, too. Ask us!

Written by Amy Schenkel, Resonate's regional mission leader for the Great Lakes region.

We are hearing that there are ministry leaders, ordained and lay, who are interested in starting new church expressions in this season that are neighborhood-based, small, and simple. If you, or someone you know, have this desire, we would love to connect you to go on this journey together. Please contact Amy Schenkel (Great Lakes Regional Mission Leader; [email protected]) or your Resonate Regional Mission Leader.

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