I think there are some positives for the church that will come through this coronavirus crisis.
Yes, there are tremendous negatives. The costs are mounting. Almost everything we currently count, other than online engagement, will likely be a loss for weeks and perhaps months to come. Budgets, attendance and even volunteer hours will likely all be somewhat lower, simply because our routines have been disrupted.
That's disheartening in many ways, just to be honest. Many pastors have worked for years to build to the place they are today; especially heading into the Easter season.
Likely, in many ways, things will never be the same.
I'm not one who says nothing will ever be the same. I think we have a biblical mandate to gather together as a church. Size isn't dictated, but corporate worship is a command. Things might be altered, especially temporarily, but I think we will see people in our church buildings again someday.
But some things will change for the foreseeable future. And the good news is that some of those changes will be positive.
5 Positives for the Church After the Coronavirus Crisis
- Crisis will allow change to happen faster. Churches have had to move fast in these days to make decisions. Even as an interim pastor in church revitalization, I've had to make some calls quickly before I could "get everyone on board." No one has complained. In fact, people have been very appreciative, recognizing that decisions needed to be made.
Of course, people will be people and power struggles will remain, but I suspect we will come out of this with far less concern with structure and more concern with seeing the mission of the church succeed. This may be the day revitalization and church mergers happen even faster. Our buildings may be seen as more of an asset to reach our community than facilities for our own comfort and convenience.
For churches willing to embrace this new reality, we may be better able to adapt and reposition quickly to meet the changing needs of our communities.
- Online and digital engagement will remain strong. Churches would be foolish to completely leave this opportunity after it's no longer a necessity. I would even contend that it is necessary. We have had to do some things during this crisis that we should have been doing all along: reaching people where they already are.
People are already online. They were before the crisis. They will be after it's over. We have a mandate to "Go." If we want to reach people, we will have to "go" where they are.
- What we measure will change. Already, to measure our effectiveness as a church, we've started to place more emphasis on digital engagement, for example. This was not a church that necessarily measured that sort of thing. When you begin to value online metrics, there are so many areas to consider. Facebook Live, website involvement, Zoom participation and online reach are just a few of them.
I realize a number of churches were doing this, but the church I am in now never paid attention, for example, that there were people engaging with the church from Romania. Or that a sizable number regularly watch services from places like Atlanta (300 miles away). New opportunities may present themselves when we look at different variables of engagement.
No doubt we will still count the offering and the Sunday attendance, but I think we won't see those as exclusive measures. Digital giving will be important even to the smallest churches. And, while it may still not be the preferred or most effective option, online participation will be seen as a legitimate means of making disciples.
- Human relationships will be valued more. You can't replace a hug or a handshake virtually. I'm an introvert and it was into week two when I realized how much I missed interactions with people—beyond virtual.
This is reminding us as a society that we are built for community. I love all the stories from places like Italy or New York where people are finding ways to engage outside their windows, even while social distancing. I wonder if we might go back to more front porches on our houses rather than decks hidden behind fences in our backyards.
The church has an opportunity to build genuine community better than any organization. It's part of our original design. May we never again confuse the simplicity of this basic human need for relationships with structured programs or traditions.
Additionally, churches are coming together for their communities. Perhaps this will continue and some of the walls between churches in our communities will be lowered and we will do more together to truly be the body of Christ in our communities.
- Talking about faith will be more culturally acceptable. People have needed hope more in the last few weeks than in recent memory. The church has the corner on providing a sense of faith and hope.
I've seen less shaming online for people expressing their faith. I'm sure it's still there, but it seems less prevalent in the feeds and posts I've encountered. I think we have been given a unique opportunity as a church to truly live what we believe even more boldly than we may have in recent years. This could be our finest hour to let our lights shine.
Those are just a few initial thoughts I'm processing. I naturally try to look for the positives. I know God has guaranteed His church a place in our society. May we come through this crisis with that place more defined, at least in our minds, than before the crisis began.
Ron Edmondson is a church and organizational leadership consultant. Most recently he was CEO of Leadership Network. Previously, he was a pastor, revitalizing two churches and planting two churches. He has also been a church leadership consultant.
For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.
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