Planning out the next six months in this season feels like looking into the next ten years. March, when the pandemic started, seems years ago.
Over the last few days, I have engaged with leaders subtly asking the question, “Will the Coronavirus affects us longer than we think?”
Churches, Businesses, Schools, and Non-Profits grapple with an uncertain future. All of us would love a cure and a miracle to remedy the pandemic, but this season has moved arduously longer than we could imagine back in March 2020.
Here’s the good news — before the shutdown, the innovations we have experimented with were already on the table. I’m still amazed at the adaptability of church leaders and pastors. Ministry strategy changed from in-person to digital overnight.
We find ourselves in a waiting period — still social distancing in small numbers with digital options along with waiting for a cure.
You might feel exhausted or weary from the complications of this season. This disorientation has caused us to plan for the future of church ministry to reach a new generation. An antidote to weariness is pausing long enough to see the next six months and long-term affects what ministry could look like with prayer.
Yesterday, I listened to Carey Nieuwhof interview Greg Atkinson. Part of my thoughts today come from this podcast, but it also highlights themes consistent in this season. I would encourage you to listen to this podcast.
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As I think about the next six months of church ministry and beyond, here are a few areas I’m keeping in mind for planning and investing the right amount of time:
What if it’s years before people come back in-person to church?
I know of many people who have limited their social interactions because of vulnerable people in their life. Most quoted metrics say that 10–30% of people have come back to church. This question should guide us more in planning than thinking the number will come up. This question prompts the rest of my thoughts.
#Physigital is the mash-up of physical and digital. I first heard this term from Ted Vaughn of the Historic Agency, and then Greg Atkinson mentioned it on the podcast above. Churches in 2019 mostly thought 90% digital — 10% physical.
Before the pandemic, we talked about print versus digital media. I think it’s so much more than that. If we expect people to show up for a forty-five minute teaching or training, then they might ask, “Why didn’t you put this online?” Whenever you call someone to come physically and digital, it’s critical to understand the value you offer.
On-Demand vs. Live Sunday Services
I serve as a digital pastor for our services. I keep asking, “How many people care about the service being live?” Some parents I know watch the Sunday service after their kids go to bed. If people engage a service through YouTube on their TV, live or on-demand, do they want to engage the chat?
Mike Todd from Transformation Church went to one digital live service on Sunday and encouraged people to go on-demand. I value chat and interaction live, but if people want to self-select on demand, how critical is it to design services for people watching at 3 am Monday morning? If on-demand viewing continues, then we will need to figure out ways to engage people at their time.
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Vanity vs. Engagement Metrics
Before the Pandemic, Brady Shearer communicated the importance of engagement metrics — baptisms, small group attendance, serving, etc. Vanity metrics mostly include Sunday service attending. This pandemic has elevated engagement metrics and has caused us to re-evaluate our attendance metrics.
People participating in the church’s life on mission tells us more than who shows up on Sunday. That’s a shift because, in the past, attendance metrics informed our engagement metrics, which worked. Now, we must focus on how people are engaging their faith in the church as a priority to help us understand attendance.
Redefining Serve One Attend One
Churches have used the adage for Sunday services, serve one attend one. If you begin to focus on engagement, how comfortable do you feel about a person who serves during a service, then watches a service on-demand or online later? Beyond the pandemic, this might become a new reality. It will continue to be essential for churches to understand their contexts and redefining their conversations around this topic.
What do you think about church ministry in the next six months? Share your comments in the section below.