Pastors and ministry leaders everywhere are scrambling to figure out how to effectively minister to their congregations and communities, and doing a yeoman’s job of it. They’re working long hours, burning up the phone lines and mastering new skills by the hour.
Even so, my gut says we don’t fully understand how much is changing right now. Most of us were good at a few things and bad at a few things before Covid-19 put the kabash on the potluck for us, but we’d found a way of doing life that worked for us.
Best case scenario, that way is broken for a while. Worst case scenario, that way is over. Here are a few realities that will be true for a while – and perhaps are the new reality.
Your congregation will not grow from visitors for months, if ever again.
None of us like being thought of as the big attraction, but in our culture, most people who join a congregation make that decision after visiting a few times. Perhaps with friends, perhaps solo, they approach us tentatively and anonymously until they elect to join a newcomers class and we walk them through the process of what it means to be one of us.
They might be visiting your streamed services, but probably not, unless your advertising budget is bursting and your production quality can back up the promises….but mostly, they’re not. Even if they did suddenly start ‘attending online’ (also called watching, but attending online sounds better), how would you get to know them? How would you serve them? How would you engage them in serving others?
A Sunday morning is now family meeting rather than outreach.
Sunday morning is now an opportunity to equip the saints and challenge them to be the church. They will be doing a lot of the pastoral care, the evangelism and discipling that used to take place on Sunday morning back when people would walk in the door and pickup their gift mug at the welcome center.
The quicker we can position Sunday morning as an insider team huddle rather than a production for the community, the quicker you’re going to have real people ministering to your community.
The move from evangelistic to apostolic.
For decades, our church buildings have been evangelistic centers – or at least tried to be.
An evangelist boldly preaches the gospel like a man or woman on fire, and wherever they do – even in the wilderness – a crowd seems to gather to watch them burn.
Now, the church must lean into it’s apostolic calling, focusing on building the kingdom of God whether it benefits the local congregation or not.
I understand that when the kingdom grows, congregations grow, so there will be additions to the church, but the goal must be bigger than filling our building because at least for a while, even if we were good at it, we can’t do it anymore.
The most we can hope for (and perhaps the most we could ever hope for) is to unleash a mob of people equipped to do the ministry that we always hoped to do when the people would come to us.
Join me each week on the Third Cup of Coffee podcast.