WHAT WILL THE POST-PANDEMIC CHURCH LOOK LIKE?
Feb 25, 2021
By Roberto Lara, Assistant to the Bishop for Communications and Development
Without a doubt, we have been through a year like none other we have experienced, as a country, and as a world, as a church. COVID-19 has become the “great unifier,” and in leveling various fields and reordering life as we knew it, we have had to reevaluate our practices and our pre-pandemic cultures and norms. For the church, this has been a transformative experience. So, as we look and prepare for the future, the important question looms: What does the post-pandemic church look like?
In order to be fully prepared for our new emerging reality let us be responsive to what our current reality is teaching us and adapt accordingly. For rostered and lay leaders alike, this will certainly be an adjustment. While no one can know for sure what the future holds, we can look at where the Spirit is leading us and work together to maintain and further our mission as the people of God.
Trends to be attentive to:
- Churchgoers are not necessarily in the pews. Prior to the pandemic, church attendance was in decline and with the onset of COVID-19, church doors closed, and virtual worship took on a whole new meaning. Interestingly, there are positive take-aways: there is an entire demographic of digitally worshipping members and, out of necessity, leaders are now equipped with the tools and ingenuity to engage with them virtually. Moving forward, we must realize that faith-filled individuals participating in our congregations remotely are just as committed and are just as important as those who will return to the church building. Life has shifted, it was already shifting, and it is up to leaders to maintain and cultivate these relationships. This is why it is vital to continue digital worship services in our post-pandemic reality. This means not merely live streaming a service from church, but also offering services of the word through platforms such as Zoom, where remote members feel they can interact with others, are connected to the pastor, and are truly a part of the church community.
- Connecting rather than gathering. Traditionally leaders have sought to gather congregants into the church building and fill the pews, but in order to continue sharing the word of God and growing our communities we need to shift our goal and energies to connecting with people outside the church building, especially via digital interfaces. In order to connect with newer generations, while maintaining traditional populations, connections need to be forged, ones that present a church that is adaptable to people’s lives and shifting communication tools. There will always be those who physically gather, but in a post-pandemic church there will continue to be those who connect digitally.
- Church is more than just a building. The pandemic made it more evident than ever that church is central to our lives and to the lives of so many individuals and communities. Further, we learned that Church is beyond a physical construct; it is the Holy Spirit that calls us to be together in various and often new settings. In a post-pandemic church, the building itself can also be a vehicle of connection, a place where people congregate to strengthen their ministry and equip themselves and each other to do ministry during the week.
- Shifting the focus: digital content connection. While it is true that the digital interface can be very competitive, this is no excuse for not connecting with current and new members. In order to establish deep and meaningful relationships, create content that is focused on ministry initiatives, community-specific topics, advocacy programs, and the care and welcoming of individuals and families. The local church can build a strong community, and with digital tools at its disposal, no one need be left out.
Let us use this time, however uncertain and frustrating it may currently be, to reflect and learn. For by engaging in new and innovative ways with all members of our diverse communities we may usher in a stronger, more accessible, and more welcoming church post-pandemic.