Pastor John Hampton

John Hampton
Lead Pastor

 

Survey SAYS

The still popular TV game show Family Feud made its debut when I was a freshman in High School. Steve Harvey hosts the current version, but back when it first aired, a man named Richard Dawson was the host. Richard Dawson was known for three things, at least to me: 1) he previously starred in one of my favorite childhood TV shows called Hogan’s Hero’s 2) he kissed all the female contestants on the Family Feud right on the lips—a practice that even to a teenage boy in the 1970’s seemed a little creepy and inappropriate 3) right before he would reveal an answer on the big board, he had a unique way of half yelling/half growling,” Survey SAYS…” and then the much anticipated answer would immediately appear accompanied by the sound of a bell ringing.

Last week in this column, I asked you to take a survey to provide some input into reopening our buildings for onsite worship gatherings. Since none of us have ever been through a global pandemic before, I figured why not gather as much information as we can from the people who will be affected the most before we make one of the biggest decisions facing us this year.

As of this morning, over 740 people completed the survey. That is tremendous participation and way beyond my expectations! Thank you to all who took the time to give us some invaluable feedback.

And so, as Richard Dawson would say: SURVEY SAYS….

There’s a lot to take in here. Additionally, over 450 provided some comments that were also very insightful and helpful. I’ve read them all more than once.

A few things stand out to me. The first is how many people have shifted to worshiping with us online. The number of views for our weekend services continues to be exponentially greater than any numbers we saw before the pandemic and the survey confirms why. To think that over 94% of our congregation quickly pivoted and adapted an online only approach to participating in church is both encouraging and revealing. That is a positive sign of a flexible and nimble church, which are very good traits when you are in a rapidly changing environment.

Secondly, there is still a fair amount of uncertainty hanging over all of us regarding reopening our society in general and our onsite church services in particular. That is reflected in the high number of “Undecided” responses in every category where that answer was an option. There are some people who are definitely ready to jump back into things the way they were. And there are some who are definitely not ready to even consider that right now. And then there are a great number of people who said, “we just don’t know…we’ll wait and see what happens…we might come back after you’ve been open a few weeks…”

My hunch prior to this survey is that about 50-66% of folks would immediately return to onsite worship when it resumes. I think the survey confirmed that. I also thought that many people are going to continue to primarily worship with us online for the foreseeable future…and that too was confirmed.

Another prominent theme emerges when it comes to whether or not parents/guardians feel comfortable putting their children into children ministry environments. Even among those who say they are definitely coming back to onsite gatherings as soon as they are offered, there was less certainty about their children participating in programming apart from them. That’s understandable but will prove to be a major challenge going forward.

A final observation for today is that a great number of people expressed both sincere concern and high interest into what the specific plans for reopening would be–and not just regarding the timing, but the safety and hygiene protocols that will be practiced when people start to come together again. People want to know a date and a plan–and very soon we will give you both. Here’s a hint: it will be sometime in May when we reopen but not early May!

For now, let’s continue to make the most of our online Journey. I continue to hear stories each week of how we are reaching people through our online services that would never consider joining us at an onsite location. Church online is as real as shopping online. As one guy put it, “Asking if online church ‘really counts’ as true ministry is like Sears asking if Amazon ‘really counts’ as true retail.” It does and they do.

Let’s not miss the great harvest that is before us when we open our eyes and our browsers.

Loving the flexible and nimble Journey!

Pastor John

Pastor John