March 30, 2020by Reverend Dan on March 30, 2020
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
What’s the economy going to look like when the pandemic is over? What’s the job situation going to look like? What’s the world going to look like?
How about this question . . . what’s the church going to look like?
When we finally get our arms around COVID-19 and the world opens back up for business, many thousands of people will excitedly come back to church. But some will want to continue to worship in the “new” ways created by social distancing. They find it more convenient and better suited to their personality and lifestyle. So, the church better be ready, because change is happening whether we’re ready or not.
Let’s use this time to get ready. We’re having to think outside the box anyway, so maybe this is a good time to let go of “the way we’ve always done it” and see where these new experiences will take us.
If you look back over time, every crisis in the history of the world has accelerated the pace at which the world changes. Technology, production, the world of medicine . . . they have all reacted to survive in times of crisis, and after the crisis is over the changes move the world forward.
We probably haven’t thought about it much because we’re all trying just to “get through the day”, but this crisis is forcing the church to change. It’s not going to be that easy to just go back to what used to be. This crisis is forcing us to move quickly to something we were inching toward before: what the church of tomorrow will look like. And whether we want to accept it or not, by the time the immediate crisis is over, the new church will already be here.
You see, most of us knew the changes were coming and had to come . . . we just didn’t think they’d be forced on us overnight. But they have been. And the expectations we create now will not “go quietly into that good night”. They will have already become the “new normal”.
For example, Sunday mornings won’t look the same. Once folks get used to Facebook live and all the other social media technologies, they may find that they like that better. They’ll be able to worship wherever they are, whenever they choose. Will they miss the human interaction? Sure. I think that’s what we’re all missing the most right now. But the truth is, the longer this goes on, the more we’ll become acclimated to the new and eschew the old.
I believe something else will (has already started to) change. To see the pastor, people either came to church on Sunday, dropped by the office, or made an appointment. With the effort to keep the church connected during this crisis, however, people are getting accustomed to daily contact form the pastor on social media. We’re setting new expectations and we’d better be ready to continue to meet those expectations. (Boundaries, my peers . . . boundaries.)
The “Don’t Push the Panic Button” realization: both of the previous two factors may mean a drop in attendance. Be ready for it . . . but don’t overreact. We’ll just need to “re-learn” to utilize our human resources to maximize the potential and ministries of the church.
Another thing I’m realizing is that churches are going to have to make a commitment to on-line staff and on-line options. I believe that will surprisingly not hurt as bad as we think. Most of the new generations would rather communicate on social media anyway. Believe me, when people need to see me face-to-face, they let me know. The truth is I’m doing infinitely more “e-pastoring” now than I did even five years ago.
Finally, everything I’ve seen during the crisis says that on-line options, including recorded sermons and tithing, are increasing. People listen when they are able. But when it comes to time to give, that means they are not sitting in the sanctuary to put their envelope in the plate. And I’ve got to tell you, from my experience once I got used to paying things on-line, I’m not going back unless I have to. (I don’t even think many of the newer generation members even have checkbooks.) So, here’s a simple math equation. A person can:
1. Give $100.00 on-line, of which $3.30 goes to the vendor providing the on-line service. That means the church gets $96.70. Or . . .
2. The person can’t give on-line and so gives $0.00. That means the church gets $0.00.
3. You do the math.
Lots of changes coming folks. And we need to prepare our infrastructure – and our closed minds – to open if we want to remain relevant in a post COVID-19 world. Back in 1964 Bob Dylan sang, “The times, they are a changing.” Well, they’re a changing again, and that means we better change with them.
“Father, Give us the insight and wisdom to look to tomorrow and not cling to yesterday. Help us to keep your message and your church relevant in whatever world and time we live in. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”