This blog article is part 1 in a 3-part series on the post-Covid Church in America

 

For more than two years, the world has been ensconced in a global pandemic that has changed virtually every element of life, including our worship spaces. American churches have been as profoundly affected as any other by the COVID-19 crisis in ways that include but also go beyond financial considerations. The spirit of America’s churchgoers and church has been put through the consummate test of faith, and for the most part is still in the midst of that test. So what can churches do to navigate the uncharted waters of this pandemic and what might they look like once we get through it?

Passing a Test of Faith for an Even Better Church

Much of the answer to that question depends on how churches and church leadership see their congregations moving forward? Do they stay stuck in a situational rut until someone in authority gives the “all-clear” and the virus officially ends? Or do they take counsel from Romans chapter 8, verse 28 wherein God promises that ALL things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose”? Covid has tested not only the faith of the Church but also its resilience and resolve by forcing churches to look for opportunities for mission that may have been created by the pandemic.

In this three-part blog series, we are going to look at ways that church ministries across America can take action in a pandemic world and what that might look like. We have partnered with our network of local church leaders on what their experience has been thus far through two years of COVID-19 and all the baggage that has come with it, as well as how they see the Church moving forward into the future in order to come out of this crisis as a Church not the same as, but perhaps even better than what it was pre-Covid.

Leading The Church Into Life After A Pandemic: Start With What Matters Most

Blazing a trail for your church congregation to follow is difficult enough without the weight of a worldwide viral outbreak on everyone’s shoulders. So what is the first step? Where do you start? The best answer is probably one that’s somewhat hidden in plain sight; one so obvious it’s easy to overlook. Start with what matters most – the people. Without our brothers and sisters who make up our congregations, there is no Church. As such, it is these precious souls who should take top priority in your efforts to establish a strong ministry, whether with Covid or without. Most churches by this point have reopened but growth – or regrowth – in attendance numbers is slow and that can be attributed in large part to the fear that still lingers regarding gathering in large assemblies.

Overcoming this fear and bringing people back to in-person services will require ministries to communicate to members and visitors that their health and safety is priority number one. People are going to be understandably skittish about returning to public gatherings but as they see other institutions opening up and restrictions easing, they will gradually feel more comfortable and willing to return to church services in person. But regardless of individual comfort level, everyone will want to be assured that when they walk into a church service, the ministry is demonstrating cognizance regarding public health. Including staples like touchless hand sanitizing stations, disposable face masks, touchless forehead thermometers (for staff to check congregants temperatures), and safety signage all contribute to an environment that communicates a commitment to a safe and healthy worship environment. As restrictions ease and attendance increases, these measures can be gradually dissolved, starting with the most intimidating ones like the forehead thermometers, until the consensus comfort level is such that hand sanitizer stations are all that are needed.

Encouraging In-Person Attendance While Maintaining Online Services

For the foreseeable future, it seems that the hybrid church experience – the popular mix of in-person and online church services – has positioned itself as the go-to format in American ministry. It speaks to the importance of not only sticking with online services but further developing them. According to a recent Barna survey, church leaders say they’ve begun allocating as much as 40% of their staff and other resources (including time and money) into the development and proliferation of their online presence.

At first glance that can seem like a lot, and if we’re honest, it is. But it’s not without merit. These same church leaders claim very positive results and a strong ROI in terms of increased attendance both in person and online. Additionally, that isn’t to say that churches need to immediately allocate 40% of all of their resources into their digital offerings. The 40% is a good goal to work toward. It’s better to start smaller, perhaps allocating 10 to 20 percent of your church’s resources (or whatever is reasonable and appropriate for your ministry) and gradually build toward the 40 percent mark.

Coming full-circle and concluding this initial part of this brief blog series, it makes sense to reiterate an important point made at the beginning of this article – trust in Romans 8:28 and look for the ‘good’ that can be derived from this pandemic. There are new, unexpected, and even creative opportunities for Mission that God has planned for church leaders and their ministries to find and carry out and many of them are there just waiting to be discovered, not despite the pandemic, but because of it.

Coming soon, in part 2 of this series, we’ll hear from church leaders about their thoughts on where they see church ministries heading during this unique period of American history, how that affects staples of ministry like generosity and community engagement, and strategies for getting online attendees back to in-person services.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Widmer
Steve is Principal at Catalyst Ministry Solutions. CMS exists to help churches, schools, and non-profits create the roadmap to reach their next level of impact. Steve brings 20+ years of success as a leader in Corporate America and 15 years working on staff in church leadership and consulting with churches in the areas of generosity, leadership, and staff development.