What will you bring with you, and what will you leave behind?
What learnings, practices, and strategies will you carry forward after this pandemic, and what old ways will you return to?
To use a word that has become anathema, what pivots will be permanent in your church?
I have some ideas on what we should keep post-pandemic. Here are five strategies I plan to pursue moving forward.
I believe virtual church has taught us better hospitality.
We learned to think more about our audience and their environment–If she is watching in her living room with her kids climbing all over her, what does she need, and how can we engage her?
Also, many of us recognized that people who were not formally attached to our church were engaging with our online worship services.
How do we include people who have no context with your history, buildings, or congregation? You do it through verbal and visual hospitality.
I believe we all learned how to be more inviting, inclusive, and welcoming in how we craft services, speak from our platforms, and especially preach from the Scriptures.
Let’s carry these new skills forward.
Better Engagement with the Community
A significant transition in our church involved our volunteers.
With the loss of serving opportunities within the walls of our church buildings, we empowered our people to serve more in our community.
This led to new friendships with local non-profits, churches, schools, and local government officials.
We also shifted some of our resources and expertise.
As a church that has been broadcasting our services to campuses and online for years, we were able to share our knowledge, equipment, and resources to serve other churches and ministries that were going online for the first time.
Through this pandemic, all of our churches shifted outward in different ways that fit our specific contexts.
I am optimistic about the impact of partnerships and community focus as we move forward.
An intriguing question: What if we continued to partner together after we no longer needed to? What could we accomplish?
This is something I want to carry forward and continue even after we enter post-pandemic.
Expansion Through Small Gatherings
We are a large multi-site church.
Over the last few decades, our growth strategy has been campuses.
The thing about campuses is they are expensive and come with risks.
They require property, buildings, parking lots, mortgages, infrastructure, and staff.
The idea of launching a new campus in the traditional way feels risky right now—financially and health-wise.
From what I can tell, many churches are exploring smaller, less expensive, more grassroots strategies of expansion.
And, since most of our churches grew significantly in our ability to leverage technology, most churches are looking to capitalize on their ability to broadcast their services and ministries.
I believe the next season of church growth will be creative, innovative, and smaller.
I’m excited to see what happens.
I believe the Church will continue to grow, but we are probably on the front edge of whatever movement follows the multi-site movement.
Shorter and More Engaging Services
I’m not sure about your church, but we shortened our services by 10-15 minutes when we moved 100% online.
We got tighter and, in my opinion, our services got better—clearer and more succinct.
We imposed a 35-minute cap on the sermon. The former cap was closer to 45 minutes.
As a preacher, this forced me to focus and cut out anything that wasn’t critical.
It required discipline.
I believe this move strengthened our communications.
I know there are other thought leaders who believe the post-pandemic age will lead to longer sermons and services.
I believe our cultural attention span is very short, and if we want to engage non-church people, we have to engage them in the attention span they’re willing to give us.
I hope we carry forward the discipline and focus we employed because we understand that people watching online in their living room have a shorter attention span.
My last idea is perhaps more of a hope than a reality but let’s be honest; it needs to become a reality.
We’re all aware of the many celebrity pastors and ministry leaders who have landed in the news the last few years because of poor decisions, moral failures, burnout, and even suicide.
We have a problem. That is clear.
This pandemic has been terrible, but it also has been a gift in the sense that many of us spent a lot of time working from home, leading at a slower pace, and cutting back on ministries and programs.
Many of us did less and worked at a more sustainable rhythm.
- We discovered we can do sermon prep from a kitchen table with our kids playing in the other room.
- We discovered leading meetings over the phone while taking a walk through the park can be productive.
- We discovered we can stay connected and move our teams forward without having to drive to a building every day.
- We discovered we don't need some of the programs and ministries we offered pre-pandemic.
- We discovered we can still reach people and lead effective ministries while operating at a significantly reduced budget.
- We discovered our congregations care more about connection than perfection.
My hope is we would carry an important lesson forward–to lead at a healthy and sustainable pace.
It turns out Jesus doesn’t need us to work 70 hours a week to build His Church.
In many ways, this pandemic has helped our churches clarify our focus.
What are some positive things this pandemic has taught you, and how are they shaping the future of your church?
Please share them in the comments below.