Michael Scott Johnson 

Spring 2020

In part A of this blog, with the help of a few other articles, I explored the effect this war against COVID-19 may have for:

  • Church ministry this summer (May-July/August, 2020)
  • Church ministry this fall and well into 2021 (though this view is grimmer than any of us hope).
  • Public health and social interaction past 2021 for years.

What will the new era of discipleship and ministry will look like as the world recovers/changes post-Covid-19? In part B of this post, I asked lots of questions to ponder and asked for some responses from you, our readers.

Here may be some important issues to address in ministry in this new coming era.

  • Some may find the rhythms of their life thrown off and it difficult to get into previous rhythms or adapted rhythms. They may find themselves undependable for participating in face-to-face activities that demand they be at a certain place, at a certain time, attentive and dressed presentably. Online worship SHOULD stay a part of what churches offer!
  • Some may give up on living their life for someone else’s schedule, while realizing relationships are still important for discipleship. This may be one more reason why asynchronous (asynchronous means not at the same time) spiritual growth will be important for churches to investigate.
  • Studies show that in the average church 20-25% of the people are dissatisfied with the role the church is playing in their spiritual growth. I have heard from some of these people, that they have discovered in this #StayHome period the ability to pick and choose what to interact with online. They may listen to some of the music from their home church and the preaching from another. The dissatisfied may now check out more quickly. As church leaders, getting past our egos about will be important. While we want our church people to stay “our” church people, the church is God’s and if God’s people grow closer to God by participating in one worship set and then a different sermon, might that be okay?
  • Empty Nesters have now discovered when they are at their lake house or hill country home or out of town visiting the kids for several weekends in a row, they do not have to check out of their home church. If much is provided also online, they can feel a part of it. Some churches did that in the past, but at times it was not uploaded till the next day or two. The moment of normal worship time is the time slot when people need to be able to access the worship event, even if they are physically elsewhere, in order to stay connected. This is an opportunity to further unify your congregation in a world on the go.
  • Parents of small children often report it hard to be in a small group. I have heard some reporting during the last weeks, groups that Zoom together after the kids are in bed, without parents having to drive to a location (and of course one being left home for safety), might allow them to be involved in a meaningful small group, even with the demands of parenting young ones. Possibly 80% of their group meetings are virtual, gathering face-to-face only periodically. Participating in online small groups could be the norm for some!
  • Pastors and church staff and volunteers have had to work much longer hours to learn new  online ways to engage people. A case in point: my wife volunteers singing back-up on a worship team. They have started to produce songs for the congregation online that the musicians record their part in their homes and then gets mixed into a visual collage (a feat that takes hours of work to complete well), in the style of the Brady Bunch opening. The result was received so well that now they are planning on doing more. My wife finds that recording songs that way, just her part, takes more hours than the four she usually volunteers each week practicing and singing in the worship band. Churches may need to consider spreading out the work over more people and more time.
  • Church staff report working very long hours weeks on end during this time of adjusting ministry to online. One of the hazards of career ministry is the blurring of the lines between career ministry time and personal/family time. Now, with working from home, those lines have become even more blurred. I have heard of higher than normal amounts of pastors leaving the ministry or their church after the energy let down after a crisis like a hurricane. What will the church do about exhausted staff, at a time when planned summer vacations have likely been canceled? What will your church do to provide replenishment for your pastor(s) and church staff?
  • Worship and technology people in churches are working harder than ever. When we get back to gathering, churches will need to take extra care that these people don’t have added work. Hiring additional help even now may be needed.

Whether you are gladdened or saddened, it is highly unlikely life and ministry will return to the old normal. Some talk about a new-normal. What if the new normal is not a consistent normal at all. What if it is that so much of what we counted on for ministry no longer works for many people? Will you drop your old tools and pick up new ones as are necessary, or even invent new ones? Adaptation is hard. Having the resources for adaptation and through adaptation is hard. But if it is our new reality, we must deal with it. And we must find new ways to fulfill Christ’s commission to “make disciples” in whatever new era we find ourselves.

If you would like to talk more about these issues as we all move into a very uncertain future, even though we can trust that God is certain, we at Ascending Leaders welcome the conversations. We need each other at these times.

Leave your comments and ideas below. We don’t all have to agree, but God calls us to learn from each other. Let’s help each other with this!

Be sure to subscribe to this blog for more conversation around this and other discipleship and topics around church vitality.

See part A

See part B

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