Rev. Donn Dobberstein
Renewing Expectations of Church Membership: The Post-COVID Challenge, Rev. Donn Dobberstein
Everyone who studies church culture believes that COVID-19 has changed American Christianity forever. Across the country, churches leaned heavily into technology to share the gospel. In ways it was a blessing, allowing many churches to reach more people than ever. However, it also created something new: virtual membership. Congregations have members who prefer to worship at home when they want. It no longer is because of health concerns. It is simply because they like the convenience. Approximately eighty percent of congregations have a lower worship attendance today than prior to COVID. This presents a challenge for shepherding work. A concerned friend or church elder calls on a member who hasn’t been in church for months. The person replies, “It’s okay. I’m watching the service at home.” How do you respond?
In this breakout, we will explore how congregations can lovingly and evangelically communicate expectations for church members and their connection to the means of grace. We will look at best practices for member care in the post-COVID world. We will see how we can use technology to serve those who miss church because they are home-bound or work on weekends, without letting technology become an excuse for other members to totally avoid the assembly of the saints. We will look at how to develop a shepherding program that pursues the straying sheep lovingly, promptly, and systematically. Finally, we will talk about when church leaders simply must acknowledge that someone is not going to return to active membership and what to do in those situations.
Are you still having trouble getting members back to regular contact with Word and sacrament? This breakout helps you think through how to approach that challenge with the zeal and the love that the Spirit provides.
Rev. Donn Dobberstein
Since growing up in Lutheran parsonages throughout the Midwest, Donn served mission parishes in Topeka, Kans. and Port Orange, Fla. for twenty-two years. Additionally, he served on the Nebraska District Mission Board and South Atlantic District Evangelism Commission. In 2004, he was appointed to the WELS Commission on Evangelism and served as chairman from 2007-2017. He has presented for the WELS Schools of Outreach, Telling the Next Generation workshops, and past National Conferences on Worship and the Arts. In November 2017, he accepted the call to be director of WELS Discipleship (a merger of adult discipleship and youth and family ministry). Donn is married to Beth, an art teacher in the Palmyra-Eagle, Wis. school district where they live. They have four children.