COVID has proved to be super disruptive for churches. But most pastors I’ve spoken with have found it less disruptive than anticipated. Groups continue to meet. Funds are still coming in. People are still engaged. The mission is moving forward.
The last year has resulted in lots of heartache and controversy for church leaders. But it has also resulted in opportunity. I see five hidden opportunities the most of our churches can benefit from if they seize the moment:
#1: Remote engagement has been normalized.
Before COVID, if a family was sick or went on vacation, they went a week disengaged from their church. Not anymore. Every week since COVID hit, we see families engage remotely when they aren’t able to be in-person. Their kids are video-chatting with our KidStep director, teens are zooming with their small group, Mom and Dad are connecting with their church on social media, and the whole family is watching the online service. And all this feels totally normal. We have to hold on to remote engagement in the new normal!
#2: Offering plates are taboo.
A year ago I was in panic mode. I assumed that asking every donor to immediately pivot to online giving would crash our budget. Boy was I wrong. Twelve months later, offering plates are taboo; nobody wants to touch those things! Plus, online giving is guest-friendly, allows us to better track funds, and makes giving far more consistent. I hope we never bring the plates back.
#3: Building-centric thinking doesn’t work anymore.
We’ve all said it a million times: “The church is a people, not a building.” But then our environments and initiatives said the opposite. I'm not suggesting that using a church facility for ministry is a bad thing. Buildings are an incredible resource! But the church must go beyond the walls of their building to fulfill the mission. That’s become easier than ever now.
#4: Missional thinking trumps “invite people to church” thinking.
In 2019, it was easy to equate evangelism with inviting people to church. The major hurdle, though, is that unchurched people can feel pretty uncomfortable in a worship service. But a positive shift happened in 2020. When we couldn’t invite people to the building, we started inviting people into our backyards! And Christians everywhere flocked to the community, served in food banks, sewed masks for neighbors, chalked Bible verses on their driveway, and so forth. This is a trend that we need to encourage.
#5: Outdated practices will die easy.
Every church leader knows that it’s way easier to start a new program or practice than it is to kill an outdated one. But COVID forced us to cancel stuff, change stuff, and try new stuff. I predict that irrelevant programs will have a hard time getting back off the ground. I predict that traditional relics, like printed bulletins, have seen their end. If you’ve ever thought “I wish we could just stop offering that” or “I’ve always wanted to try this,” now is your chance.
I’m not trying to make light of the hardship our world has faced in this pandemic; the cons have outweighed the pros. But our churches will be stronger if we adapt and innovate coming out of this season. Let's embrace the hidden opportunities in front of us!