“Everything has changed, and nothing will ever be the same.”
“Things will settle down, and we’ll get back to normal soon.”
“Some stuff might change and some will probably stay the same.”
“I don’t know.”
If you took every opinion about what the church will look like post-pandemic, they could easily be lumped into the four categories listed above. Although, I don’t hear the “I don’t know” option very much, but it does happen to be mine. It also happens to be the working title of the leadership book that I won’t write anytime soon.
That being said, the “I don’t know” option can’t last for long. Very soon, churches, leaders, and Christ followers are going to need to sit down together with God and figure out what “church” is going to look like moving forward. I hope that these discussions aren’t driven by fear, but instead are motivated by an excitement about what we have learned and experienced during this most unusual season in church life. I hope these discussions are driven by a desire to take responsibility for our communities and be Kingdom bringers to the folks God has placed us around. Together we are going to need to figure out how to do (or keep doing or start doing) what God asks His church to do.
The thing is, all I can ask you to do as churches is to have these discussions. I can’t write up a one size fits all to do list because your church is different than that church over there with different people, different neighbourhood, different abilities to meet needs, and so on. Same God and same call however, just lived out differently.
What I can do is provide some ideas to get you started praying, thinking, listening, dreaming, and planning. Ready? Here is some stuff your church will need to figure out moving forward:
- We still need to disciple people. That will always be a part of the church’s mandate. What we will need to wrestle through is what that will look like. What have we learned about where our folks are in terms of spiritual maturity? What role will technology play in the ongoing spiritual development of people?
- Community matters. If these past months have highlighted something for us, it’s that we were built for community. We long to be known and loved. I know many people have talked about the need to slow down and find people to be in community with. We can’t lose that drive. We need to facilitate fellowship and community which is more than coffee after the service. Before all of this started our churches were filled with some very lonely people. That should not be. How do we open our homes and our lives in order to be in fellowship with one another? (Those “one another” statements we find in Scripture matter and need to be lived out and this is the category they get filed under.)
- Prayer is a thing. I mean we know that but…Here has been the interesting thing I have been hearing. More people are showing up at zoom prayer meetings than the actual prayer meetings we used to have. What do we learn from that? How and when do we hold prayer meetings going forward? What if we actually became a house of prayer?
- Needs meeting should be at the top of our priority list. This applies to folks inside and outside the church. How are we looking after folks who lost jobs or businesses during this time? We should have an answer to that question. How are we stepping into our neighborhoods and communities and making a difference there in Jesus name?
- All of this applies to folks not yet part of our group. Most churches lose their focus on those outside the walls of the building. Maybe that changed during this pandemic or maybe it didn’t, but we can’t lose that focus. Jesus said we can’t. I wanted to keep this point separate from needs meeting because while needs meeting may be part of this point, it isn’t all of it. This is also a discipleship and worship point (online or in person we need to make sure we plan and act like there is company in the room). It’s also a budget point and a training point. It needs to be part of every conversation we have.
So there is your starter kit for asking good questions and trying to figure out what church is going to look like moving forward. Of course, you can make up your own questions. Mine were spurred on by reading Acts 2:42-47. Your list might be different, but it’s always good to start with what God may have had in mind and figure out how to do what He asks and wants in our context.So let’s pray, listen, dream, imagine, and plan. Let’s be the church we have been created and called to be.
Director of Leadership Development and Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada