Insights After Six Months Of Being Reopened

Today’s article is by Ben Stapley. Ben serves on the Executive Team at Christ Fellowship as the Weekend Experience Director overseeing the production, worship, creative, communication, online and guest service departments. Ben shares how the past six months of being reopened gave Christ Fellowship seven insights into where their church is at and how they need to continue pivoting.

Christ Fellowship Miami has seven local campuses, eleven global campuses and one online campus. We reopened the local campuses back in October 2020. Because of the investment in surveying our people, consulting with health care professionals and spending a lot of time in prayer, this reopening has been successful. We continue to help more people find and follow Jesus locally, globally and online. The past six months of being reopened has given us seven insights into where our people are at and how we need to continue pivoting. They are below.

  • Smaller Campuses Had Higher Return Rates // Our largest campus started with 30% of pre COVID numbers whereas our smaller campus started with 45%. This mirrors what was happening nationally. Smaller churches had higher return rates. Two of the factors accounting for this 15% difference is intimacy and safety. Smaller churches and campuses have higher degrees of intimacy so a greater degree of these guests want to come back. And since these churches and campuses are smaller there is a perception that they will be safer.
  • Online Initially Took A Dip // There are three main reasons for this. One, some of the online guests started attending onsite campuses. Two, a number of these guests were also our digital evangelists, so when they stopped attending online they naturally stopped spreading the word about it. Three, online promotion was decreased to make room to increase onsite promotion.
  • Online Has Grown // Even though online initially took a dip when we reopened, it has steadily grown over the past six months. This has been a pleasant surprise. We, like a lot of other church leaders, were hoping to just maintain our online attendance. But with continued investment and intentionality we have not maintained, but have grown our online campus.
  • Weather Still Has An Impact // The virus keeps people away and so too does the weather. We really didn’t anticipate this would be any different. But it was helpful to have it confirmed. You can see in the graph below when the tropical storm hit us in Miami. So regardless of where you live in the country, you will continue to see onsite attendance dip due to inclement weather. Some things never change 🙂 
  • Screen Fatigue Is An Excuse // Some church leaders attributed diminishing online attendance and engagement to screen fatigue. But I just watched Zack Snyder’s four hour version of Justice League, so this feels like an excuse to me. My hunch was recently proven accurate by our kids department. At the beginning of the year they studied storytelling principles from the most watched kids programming and applied them to their content. And the engagement since has continued to climb
  • Easter Brought Back A Lot Of Regular Attenders // One positive impact of Easter was a lot of regular guests came back to an onsite campus for the first time. We saw plenty of familiar faces across our onsite campuses. When we interacted with these guests afterwards, many of them indicated how they had been nervous about coming back for safety reasons. But the desire to celebrate their resurrected Savior helped them push through those fears.
  • We Didn’t See The Post Easter Dip // Normally we see low retention the Sunday after Easter. A lot of people get dragged out by family members for the holiday service but don’t come back the next week. Since a lot of the Easter bump was longtime guests coming back for the first time, we didn’t see the usual post Easter slump. They saw that our onsite services were safe, spacious and sanitized first hand and they decided to start attending regularly.

These are the seven main insights we have gained after being reopened for six months. If your church has reopened, I would love to know the insights you have gained. Feel free to email me at [email protected]. I would love to hear from you and learn from you. Have yourself an awesome day.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.