For several weeks we have been seeing how COVID-19 is affecting the Lord’s church. We have had to make major adjustments. These adjustments, in some cases, will become permanent behavior in the church. Unless you are comfortable with change, you may be very uncomfortable with what’s occurring. We are beginning to believe that we can never totally go back to the previous ‘church’ normal. Some of these changes may actually be for the ‘better’ of the church. Bottom line: it will be about another new normal.
I am seeing many congregations/leaderships doing a very good job of dealing with all the issues associated with the virus. Many churches have virtual worship services and Bible classes. Some churches have parking lot services. Some are having several smaller services every Sunday. I am reading that some churches will permanently go to the virtual worship services plus small groups for Bible study. The Sunday morning and Wednesday evening Bible classes, as we once knew them, may no longer exist or may exist in a new form. We may need fewer men to lead worship services. Large church buildings may no longer be necessary. Fewer full-time staff may be needed. Church leadership (elders) will always be needed; the way they operate may be quite different. For example, our elders meet through ZOOM. Deacons may serve a smaller group of members. Some churches no longer have anything for Sunday evenings and others may forfeit Sunday evening assemblies totally. However, Sunday evening services have been getting rarer before the virus. Giving has been hit hard for many churches. Some congregations will close their doors because the giving has dropped so dramatically. On-line giving has not resolved many of our giving woes. More needs to be done this area.
But how may all this affect involvement? How are these changes going to affect members in ministry? Remember that before the virus, most ministries were church-building centered and most ministries were internal (they served the needs of the local church). That has changed radically in the past few weeks. Most church ministries lay dormant at this moment. What will happen? What is happening?
Involvement may become more individualistic. More members may be encouraged to use their individual gifts and passions to serve a specific group of people or other individuals. We usually have several ministries made up of several people (in each) who serve. For example, we have one ministry that is made up of 25 or more members that serves, in many instances, the entire congregation. That would change to a few serving a few or individuals serving individuals. If the church divides into smaller groups, the members of said groups may serve in a more individualistic manner—members of said group serving one another. There will be opportunities to serve members in one’s personal small group.
Involvement may be more home-centered and less building-centered. Many of our (before the virus) ministries are/were done within a church edifice/building (e.g. greeters, Lord’s Supper preparation, building preparation, parking valets, ushers, childcare, security, fellowship meals, A/V, etc.). If the church met in small groups, ministries would be done in one’s home or in the homes of others. This would open up new opportunities for service. No doubt about it, new types of ministries will evolve and come into being. Need always drives ministries.
If we continue to assemble together in church edifices, how greeters operate may change, how the Lord’s Supper is prepared and served will change, fellowship meals may be a thing of the past (at least for a while), Bible classes, nurseries and other people ministries may be permanently modified or changed. All of these are ministries in your congregation and ministry will change. Some new ministries will come about and some will end.
Involvement may be less about worship assemblies and church administration. Think about this for a moment. How many folks does it take to organize and lead a Sunday morning worship service? In our case, it takes a minimum of 11 men. If you were in a small Bible study group and/or if your worship was done virtually, you would need fewer men. Social distancing and how communion are done will change for ‘normal’ or traditional assemblies. Giving has already been affected and how we continue to give will be greatly modified. Ministries related to church buildings are many and require lots of administration, and in many cases, money. This may all change. There is some writing out there that says that less full-time staff would be necessary. Elders would be ‘stretched’ to attend several smaller groups and pastor one or more of these. Note: I was reading recently about one congregation having 10 (ten) worship assemblies one Sunday morning so they could social-distance and still get the church together. Will that be an option for your church?
Involvement may be more evangelistic. Most small groups are designed to bring people to Christ. If a congregation goes to the small group method and the groups are intentionally designed to win people to Christ, more and more members will be involved in the process of bringing and discipling new members. This may be a welcomed improvement over what is presently done in your congregation. BTW: these groups would be limited to ten people—unless the rules change.
Are there some obstacles and challenges? Absolutely. You’ve already had some of these and when you (attempt to) go back to the way things were, you will encounter some difficulties and adjustments. Some members want to go back to the way things were before the virus. Some will NOT want to go back. All of this requires unity and a desire to grow numerically and spiritually. Some of the new changes will bring blessings and advantages.
I have shared my limited observations and opinions. I now want to hear from you. What do you think will happen to involvement? What will it look like in the future? Maybe we, together, can assist the church in her quest in membership ministry in the near and distant future. I look forward to your replies. Just “reply” and make your comments and send. Thank you.