Change through challenging times is an important part of what it means to walk with God. As the Serenity prayer instructs us, "hardship is the pathway to peace."
One of the reasons hardship leads to peace is that there's a significant part of that path where we're disoriented and uncertain about the terrain on which we're travelling. It's along this section of the road that faith is built, that is, peace with God. Covid 19 has been such a roadway for the church.
Last week I invited you guys to share with me your thoughts about how your church is different in 2022 than it was in 2019. There were some great insights and clear themes. I've also been initiating conversations with church leaders the past couple of months on this topic. Between the surveys and the conversations, here are seven ways life happened to church in the past three years.
I hope to take the next couple of months to examine the good, the bad, and potential ways technology can help with each of these. Here's a brief introduction.
Seven ways life happened to church in the past three years.
- Blended worship. This used to mean services with different music styles. Now, it means different channels for experiencing worship - live & live stream.
- Assimilation stagnation. The pandemic exposed our weaknesses in following up with people. Churches with assimilation strategies struggled to adapt. Those without such systems languished.
- Different crowd. Few churches are seeing the same level of attendance. Many of the faithful haven't come back, but there seems to be a lot of new people as well.
- Cautious congregation. Connection cards are harder to get. Volunteers are more hesitant to jump in. Almost everyone is somewhere between fearful and uncertain.
- Adaptive pastoring. Visiting the hospital and home bound has changed. But, so have the concerns and needs of families along all kinds of spiritual and cultural issues.
- Outward focus. Some churches thrived by serving their community as testing and vaccination sites or food distribution centers. These raised their level of visibility. Others recognize a need to focus on evangelism and outreach to get the church back on mission and/or growing again.
- Staff stress. All of the above has taken its toll on pastors like no time in recent history. The church has not been immune to the resignation issues seen in the culture as a whole.
I'm not including the dramatic change to online giving because actual stewardship has for the most part held steady. You know the reason for this - technology. Similarly, it is my conviction that technology has a role to play in helping us navigate these seven changes. I pray that by exploring these hardships together, we'll find a growing measure of the peace that God provides those who passionately pursue Him.