It’s a common opening phrase being heard at churches all over as we’re moving towards meeting in person again. The danger of the phrase is the implication that while we were away, we weren’t doing church, and now that we’re in person, we ARE doing church – but what about those who still aren’t in person?
Church is much more than 4 walls, and this was a concern far before COVID and not having a choice but to do services online.
Consider the people still choosing to stay home for precaution, or the person with headphones in listening from work on Sunday morning, or someone who was sick or traveling Sunday and is watching or listening later in the week – what they may hear is “We’re doing church and making you feel apart of us when you’re here.”
This isn’t something that’s a new concern, but something that’s much easier to demonstrate now than it was before we were unable to meet in person.
We have to come to terms with the reality that church is not a building or an event, but your members are the church. We all would have probably agreed to this statement before the pandemic, but did we really mean it, or was it just something that we recognized was probably true without putting feet to the words?
Church is the outreach on Monday night, the prayer meeting on Tuesday morning, the Youth meeting on Wednesday night, the friend praying for a neighbor over the fence on Thursday, the guy who delivers a grocery gift card anonymously to the mailbox of a single mom on Friday, the hospital visit on Saturday, and yes, people who watch online or participate in person, on Sunday.
But rather than just talk about the pitfalls of saying “Welcome back to church” here are some helpful alternatives:
• Thank you for being part of our family, whether you’re online or on our campus today.
• It’s great to see you again, and for those watching online, I’m sure it’s great to see me!
• If you’re watching online today, thank you for joining us. Let us know if you have prayer request.
We don’t need to shy away from acknowledging that people are watching online – clearly there’s a distinction there between watching online and being in person – but continue to find ways to address the online audience, or address those in-person without excluding those online.
Here are some church handheld sign examples for when people arrive: