First of all: Church never closed. Sure, your building had restrictions but the Church (the Christ-followers in your local fellowship) didn’t close down. In fact, the virus only decentralized your Church for a relatively short time.

Now governments are permitting larger gatherings (with apprehension), but are you ready? I’m sure you’re considering disinfecting and socially distancing, along with many other tactical necessities.

I certainly hope each of your ministries is soberly looking at how people have been affected and how opinions have changed during this time. Understand that everyone isn’t feeling the same way!

That’s why an effective communication strategy is essential. Instead of a shotgun approach, you need a systematic strategy that pushes to a process of changes. Here are five strategic tips:

1. Thread: know your church’s brand.

Your congregation is attracted to your local church for a beneficial reason. You must know and control the language around that one thing that “most” would say you’re known for. Even before your return, consistently emphasize why they love your ministries and why they will return to you (why your thread must be unique). This IS your brand.

2. Understand: your ministry probably shifted.

During the conversion to online-only worship and offline ministries, discuss with staff and key members if you became something different (even in perception)? Were the changes needed? Do they fit with your thread? Perhaps a ministry realignment is required to your vision, mission, and measures.

3. Survey: discover their perception.

Your members are critical. Ministries and communication are for THEM; not for you. Using a digital tool (like SurveyMonkey) or having volunteers call, ask questions that will help you understand how they’re feeling. Now is the time to do this.

Don’t ask too many questions. Just enough to: 1) know how they expect the church to be upon return and 2) how you expect them to be when they return. Make it anonymous (if possible). Do what’s required to get a large sampling of your congregation. This survey says you truly care and want to listen. So, listen before acting.

4. Options: know where you’re headed.

Your congregation may feel differently than you. The survey helps you understand how your communication needs to proceed: it may need to be convincing, educating, and/or supportive. Your leadership role is to lead.

Establish where most of your congregation is and where your leadership team wants them to be in the future. Decide the amount of steps required to get them there! Create timeline options based on government phase options and timing. Be careful with assumptions.

5. Communicate: have a controlled plan.

Create a plan of how to keep everyone well-informed and motivated as you move towards reopening. Walk the required steps in No. 4. Use all communication tools and channels that they already trust. Don’t overdo the communication. Push info on the back of entertainment (edutainment). Edit. Edit. Edit. Use only critical words and concepts.