With 95% (or so) of the funding of the Church of the Nazarene’s global operations coming from USA/Canada, it is imperative to the entire church that the USA/Canada church emerge from the pandemic healthy. The big question is: Will the USA/Canada church survive the pandemic or will we be another victim of Covid 19?
There are good signs. In spite of early fears of financial collapse caused by the pandemic (how can you raise monies if you are not passing the plates?), those worries did not happen in many places. Our people were faithful in giving. They continued to give on-line or via mail and ministry continued. Many churches flipped on the fly and started presenting on-line services and producing distance Christian learning all in an effort to kept people engaged.
There are also troubling signs. Most churches will see a decline in in-person attendance this year. Some of these declines will make the viability of the tenuous-at-best, pre-covid churches even less possible. People discovered (in their minds, at least) they didn’t need to be in the church building to get Christian content. They could get it on-line sipping coffee on their couch. They aren’t coming back. There are folks on both sides of the Covid-response debate who are not coming back. Those who determined the local church’s approach to masks, etc. was too restrictive and those who thought the local church response was not restrictive enough are not coming back. Others tired of the politicization of the US church are not coming back. The recent in-the-news fighting among the Southern Baptists and the upcoming split in the United Methodist church, splashes onto Nazarenes as we get lumped with these and other church troubles leaving more wondering about “organized religion.” Make no mistake, the Enemy is using all of these (and more) excuses to keep people away from the church doors.
Moreover, the church is getting older. The Silent generation and Boomers are the givers. Gen X, Y and Z not as much. While these groups continued to give at rates (sometimes even higher) than pre-pandemic, a legitimate question is sustainability. If they are not attending in person (and some will never come back, see above) how long until their giving also wanes? Furthermore, when in wanes because of their lack of connection, how will that impact both the local and global mission of the church?
The Church of the Nazarene dodged the initial financial bullet of the pandemic. But another shot is coming unless churches return to the pre-pandemic connectivity, work hard on re-engaging people to the life of the church, stress the importance of in-person connections and expand its outreach post-pandemic. Even as life becomes more “normal,” the church will not be the same as it was pre-pandemic. Those churches without a “Come Back” strategy and discipleship plan for those who return will be victims of the lasting effects of Covid-19. Those churches that are pro-active, involved, and evangelistic will survive and many will thrive.
The Church of the Nazarene does not have to be a victim of Covid-19, but unless the church is proactive in discipleship and evangelism it will be.