Is anyone else wondering what will the church look like once this coronavirus emergency is over. Before I go much farther, let me state (like Amos) I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. These are just a few of observations. Of course, the longer the emergency lasts the greater the toll on the church and just about every other entity in our lives. Are there steps we can take to ensure, a healthy church when we return?
1) Is passing of the peace a thing of the past? And all the introverts in the crowd shouted, “Yes, Please!!”
2.) Is one cup chalice communion also done? Or communion by intinction when you break bread from a common loaf? Or even passing the communion trays or offering plates down the aisle? Will we all be germ-a-phobes when this is over?
3). What you are probably worried about: Finances. Finances. Finances.
People who were faithfully tithing before all of this craziness, will still faithfully give. Of course, many in your congregation may be laid off or not receiving their full salaries. Tithing even among the faithful will most likely go down (people can’t tithe if they aren’t earning anything). Many Boomers who are now receiving retirement or social security will continue to give (although they may not be comfortable giving on line. Remind them that sending in their tithe or dropping it off at the church is very welcomed). In the event the government sends stimulus checks, don’t remind people to tithe on it. Those who are accustomed to tithing will tithe. Those who don’t tithe when there is not a crisis likely won’t start tithing in one. As always, thank people for their generosity. And as you have always done, trust that the Lord will provide!
4). What you should be worried about: Connectivity. Connectivity. Connectivity.
Just because people are joining your Facebook live or Livestreaming of your service does not mean that they are connected. Pastors, imagine stepping in and out of the pulpit without communicating to anyone coming or going. If the pastor just preached and went home, she/he wouldn’t have a congregation for long. We need to know our people. On a typical Sunday that happens as the pastor interacts with people before and after the service. Now to likewise intermingle with the congregation will take effort— a weekly, consistent effort. Phones calls. Texting. Personal Letters (yes, you can still send notes). Social Media interaction. Some of these things. All of these things. Work very hard at connecting with your people. Failure to connect while your congregation is isolated will only remind them they don’t need the church (or at least your church) when they can move about once more.
5). Be thankful for technology. Anyone with a phone and Wi-Fi or cellphone service can Facebook livestream a service. It might not be the high-tech production of a mega church, but the people that attend your church aren’t looking for a megachurch. They are looking for their family. Technology doesn’t have to be expensive. Use zoom.us for a free prayer meeting or Bible Study. Five years ago none of these tools would be available to us. Now they are, so use them and be thankful.
6). If not in a complete lock down, use this time for healthy volunteers to deep clean the church. Most churches could use a little extra cleaning. Families will be wanting to get out of their homes. Ask for volunteers to help. When regular services start back, welcome folks with a sparkling clean church.
7). Prayer matters more now than ever. Pray is last on this list, but it should be our first priority. The pastoral prayer time is more important than ever. As your service is streaming over Facebook, pray (by name) for the homebound sick or those in the hospital who are watching. Immediately it sends a message that they are loved and cared for by their church family. People love knowing that their faith community has not forgotten them. Pray for the community leaders and medical professionals on the front lines. And of course, pray for a swift end to Covid-19. Pray. Pray. Pray.
HINT I: If your church wasn’t healthy before the coronavirus, don’t expect it to be miraculously remedied after the coronavirus emergency. Generally, crises shine a spotlight on the problems, they do not solve problems.
Hint II: Be faithful. Be Bold. Be confident of God’s working. All storms come to an end. This one will too. Do everything to make sure that your local church weathers this coronavirus storm.
I have been on these thoughts with my wife the past few days. Yesterday was the second Church Sunday from a distance. I think the “structured church” will be the most affected, especially financially. Those denominations who have decentralized earlier, would be in a better state after COVID 19! My thoughts. . .