Being out in public is not enjoyable for everyone. There are many situations and reasons why. What we need to remember is not to punish anyone because of it. Nor should we deny them the Gospel. Solutions exist to allow for personal connection that is not face-to-face. Here are a few scenarios and some possible solutions for these anxieties.
First, please know that I am not a psychologist. I have no medical training and offer no medical advice. If you have one of these situations, please seek professional help. These solutions are about how to get you connected to a church, not cure a condition.
Fear of Crowds
Some people start to cringe at the thought of being surrounded by a large crowd. They often feel closed in and suffocated. You may have someone suffering through this anxiety in your church right now. Maybe even this week, someone sat through a service, paralyzed with fear. Publishing sermon recordings on YouTube is a great way to connect with these people.
One of the most well-known fears people have is public speaking. It often outranks the fear of dying. Yet in many of our group ministries we ask people to talk in front of others. Smaller groups may not reduce that fear. Use chat or video conferencing to allow people to connect from the comfort of their own homes.
Sometimes just the thought of going into an unknown situation can keep someone at bay. They may want to test the culture of the church out before they arrive on site. Recorded sermons, worship services, and provide walkthroughs of your church. They need to know what to expect when they walk through the door.
There are many mental health and neurological conditions that make people avoid crowds. Something as Tourette's syndrome can be a huge challenge in a church environment. ADHD can make paying attention to sermon especially difficult. The private setting of streaming sermons makes dealing with these scenarios easier. You remove the stares and awkward glances. Your audience can take a break by pausing a recorded sermon.
Avoiding Specific People
We may not want to think about it, but another group of people may be worried about a more specific threat. The circumstances can be wide and varied. But instead of asking someone to leave your church, find a digital solution. This is not a disorder or medical condition. But anxiety is anxiety regardless of the cause. A parent can rest easier they will not violate a restraining order if they attend a service. These are difficult situations for a church to deal with. I hope a digital solution can have wide-ranging positive effects.
As a first step, record your sermons. If possible, add recordings of your worship. Check with copyright laws first depending on your style of music. This allows you to distribute that content to anyone suffering from those conditions. Then add a snippet of video or audio that addresses your remote audience. Give them information about how they can connect face-to-face, in smaller groups. Provide a doorway for anyone with those fears to ease into the culture of your church. Remind your leadership that not everyone is outgoing and worry-free. These resources are a blessing to anyone who needs the Gospel, but is burdened with hardships.
Photo courtesy of Brenton Nicholls