This blog article is part 2 in a 3-part series on the post-covid Church in America

In the first blog article in this series, we introduced the issue of our churches in America in the grip of the covid pandemic and how church leaders have been managing their ministries thus far. During the last several months of 2021, the nation began to feel as though things were starting to ease up. State and federal restrictions were easing, the covid “numbers” were declining, the curve was flattening. And in our churches, people were, very gradually, beginning to make their way back to in-person services after nearly two years of either watching online from the safety of their own homes or not attending services altogether.

Then in late November just before the Thanksgiving holiday, reports of Omicron – the latest variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19 – began to surface along with the as-expected spike in Covid-19 cases worldwide. The result was an already gun-shy world populace that was just starting to get comfortable with the idea of venturing back out into the world of large group gatherings and social normalcy was forced back into seclusion.

And our church communities were no exception.

Despite the gut-wrenching news that the pandemic was not only not ending but had gained renewed strength through the Omicron variant, the outlook among church leaders was surprisingly hopeful. Although they were adamant about being realistic regarding the future of their individual ministries as well as of the Church at large, the consensus was far more optimistic and encouraging than most would expect. And therein lies the leadership element of our church leaders.

Creating Light in the Darkness of a Pandemic

As with most of the activities and elements of daily life, the world community just wants things to return to how they were before the pandemic. The reality, however, is that a return to the way things were before March of 2020 is not likely to happen, at least not any time soon. So the question for America’s church ministries then becomes, how do we adjust our worship in this new world health paradigm? Do we lock ourselves away and play the victim card, or do we find opportunities for mission despite the antisocial climate we’re living in

“I think because of the pandemic, church leaders realized how flexible we can truly be when we need to be, how quickly we can choose to respond when we need to respond that way,” says Joel Howard, Senior Pastor at Grace Lutheran Ministries in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. “For us at Grace, we were essentially faced with a choice: either play the victim card as a ministry, save every penny and spend very little in the hopes that God will intervene with a miracle fix, or we can take steps of faith and look for opportunities for mission and actually ask ourselves, what is God doing in the midst of this that helps to move the church forward?”

For Pastor Howard and his staff at Grace, the answer was to show the community that their ministry “cares about people regardless of whether they are attending services in person or virtually…and let’s do what we can do to reach as many people as possible with the Gospel both among our members and in the community.” And that became the mantra among the staff members at Grace and led to them finding alternative ways to carry out their mission work. The ministry held outdoor worship services in local parks and invested in a full gamut of live-streaming equipment and technology in order to take their online recorded service from the afterthought that it had been before the pandemic to where it is now with the church live-streaming two services every Sunday, and with a strong attendance numbers. “We became better as a ministry and as leadership,” says Pastor Howard, “not despite the pandemic, but actually because of it.”

Balancing the Books: Covid’s Impact on Generosity in the Church

With the sanctuaries in America thinning down to near empty – and in many cases completely empty – as a result of the pandemic, it is easy to assume that financial giving among church members would drop significantly as well. As a pleasant surprise, that hasn’t been the case across much of the evangelical landscape. Brad Leeper, one of the principals at Generis, an organization that helps churches accelerate generosity and expand their ministries, has seen generosity numbers actually increase during covid, particularly as they pertain to capital campaigns. “As most people came through covid, they found themselves no worse off and most of them found themselves better off. Savings rates went up, personal expenses went down, vacations weren’t being taken, so there was a great deal of cash sitting around in accounts.

“We’ve found that major [financial] gifts have been significant because of things like the stock market and particularly cryptocurrency, which is down now but through the bulk of the pandemic to date has been a popular means by which people, particularly a lot of younger investors who use crypto, are using it for their giving.” As a result, the numbers for capital campaigns have been very strong. Mr. Leeper stated that most individuals with substantial financial capacity have had a willingness to invest in projects, particularly those that have a unique vision, that demonstrate innovation, or that allow them to invest in education, specifically Christian education.

So while the covid pandemic has of course been in many ways been a detriment to churches in America, as it has been to businesses and organizations everywhere, there has been a very apparent silver lining that has allowed many church ministries and their leaders to find, and even to create, new and different ways to continue their mission and keep their books balanced in the process.

If you’d like to learn more about the Catalyst Ministry Solutions team and how we can help your church ministry, click here and let’s start the conversation.

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Tim Dittloff
As Principal with Catalyst Ministry Solutions, Tim has more than 20 years of experience leading change in stewardship and generosity. As a certified coach and trainer through The John Maxwell Team, and as a credentialed Christian nonprofit leader through the Christian Leadership Alliance, Tim has focused his career on helping leaders of organizations navigate the course of stewardship and generosity by setting actionable steps toward a common goal.