Last Sunday we saw thousands of churches rushing to figure out live streaming for the first time, amid the breaking news of COVID-19 hitting America. This Sunday we will see even more, as most governments aren’t allowing large gatherings to take place even if we wanted to. I think there will be very few, if any, churches meeting in person this Sunday and next Sunday.
Even churches that said they would never stream online were forced to figure something out.
Let me say something that you may not want to hear. You may not even be ready to believe it yet, as you may still be in survival mode just taking it day by day.
This is NOT temporary. This is the start of a new normal.
Yes we will eventually be able to meet regularly in large gatherings on Sundays. It may be 8 weeks, it may be 12, it may even be longer. But the time will come again when you can utilize your building the way you intended.
However, I guarantee people’s expectations will have changed. Their needs will have changed. Over the next few weeks the entire world is going to witness that church really has very little to do with a building or a worship service.
Right now our focus should be on meeting people’s practical and physical needs (especially the vulnerable), as well as caring for each other emotionally and spiritually. All the while not forgetting our commandment. We still have to figure out the best ways to saturate the world with the gospel when meeting in large gatherings and making people come to us is no longer an option.
But after this is all over, and we “go back to normal,” are we going to be confusing everyone?
My hope is that this is a big wake up call to the church.
I hate to say it, but the way we’ve been doing church has been kinda short-sighted. It’s lazy. It’s easy. Quite frankly, it just hasn’t been enough.
But it’s worked well enough… until now.
Let me talk specifically to the church communicator right now. You know who are you are.
We are now the cupbearers. The burden to get us through the next few weeks, and the burden to pave the new future, is now on YOU, the person in the communications role.
Suddenly the worship pastor, and the senior pastor, and everyone who’s role is specifically tailored towards creating Sunday worship experiences is at a loss of what to do, and they’re looking to you for digital solutions to keep the church going.
As you’re thinking that through, I encourage you to think long term. This isn’t a band-aid to get you through a crisis. I guarantee that this is the future. What does your church look like going forward? What if you lose your building again? How are you going to continue to be the church, regardless of what your weekend services look like? There are some amazing digital solutions that help with all of that!
I’m not saying Sunday gatherings should go away. I’m saying they can and should no longer be the emphasis of what we do.
And please don’t hear me say that preaching the gospel isn’t important, or that the sacrements aren’t important, or that the gathering of the saints isn’t important. I didn’t say those things, nor do I believe that.
But show me where it says in the Bible that the model we’ve had for church is the best and only way.
Everything is on the table right now. Now is the time to re-think, re-strategize, and pivot.
Here’s some ideas that I’m sure will be called radical, but they are exactly what you should be thinking through right now:
- If you don’t own your location, consider whether you even need a permanent meeting space going forward.
- If you’re currently raising money for a building expansion, you might want to consider whether it will even be needed.
- Add up the cost to own and operate your buildings. Then consider what else that money could be used for instead.
- If you have a building, consider using it as a studio for you and other churches to record your messages and other content. Use it for events, but also use it as a community space. Convert part of it into a co-working location, or a food pantry, or both.
- Consider merging or partnering with other churches who are leasing or who might want to give up their building. What if our buildings were just hubs for many churches, but the real church is online and in the community?
- What would your church look like if you didn’t gather every week? Maybe you only meet once a month, with digital gatherings and small groups in between.
How your church moves forward is up to you. Take into account your beliefs, your community’s specific needs, your resources, etc. Make plans for continuing the sacrements in new ways, for preaching the gospel in new ways, etc. None of that needs to go away, it can just be done differently and more effectively.
Whatever you do, please don’t go back to the way it was.
And please, do not let fear drive your decisions. The number one reason I’ve heard over the years as to why churches can’t or won’t go digital is that it would upset certain age groups in their congregation and thus disrupt their donations.
That’s no reason to shape the entire way you do church.