by Mary Frances
About once a month I gather with leaders from a group of congregations to talk about changes they can make in order to do a better job of living into their mission, vision and values. At our next meeting we are going to talk about how to assess the effectiveness of the changes they have made. So often, we allow major decisions to hinge on a handful of stories without ever taking the time to thoroughly evaluate what we are doing. Now that we are moving from the Covid pandemic to the Covid endemic, this might be the time to start a thoughtful and thorough evaluation of what you are doing to live out your mission, vision and values as well as why.
As recently as January 2022, researchers were still saying that it was too soon to tell if people would return to the pews but now, just a few months later, the data is becoming clear. Many people who stayed home because of Covid are just not coming back to church. Whatever threads connected them to the social and spiritual fabric of the local congregation have been severed and will most likely not be stitched back together. But that isn’t all bad news. In fact, this may be more of a tale of new wine not fitting into old wineskins. Many people are comfortable engaging congregational worship and life online. “While congregations as a whole may have experienced a large drop in physical attendance during the pandemic, there’s good reason to believe that virtual attendance is much higher today than it was before the coronavirus outbreak began in early 2020,” said a recent Pew report.
Do you have a carefully thought through strategic plan for how you move forward from here? Do you know what you will do without those folks returning to your church building, to Sunday school, to confirmation classes? How will you continue to engage an online community? Will hybrid ministry consist of more than just live streaming your Sunday worship? What about hybrid Sunday school, bible study and confirmation? Have you considered how you will evaluate the results of your plan in order to determine your next steps and the steps after that?
As you consider your strategic plans, be sure to take a look at the needs of your community using the Neighborhood Missional Intelligence Report. You might also consider having your congregation take the free Congregational Vitality Assessment now and then again, several months to a year after you make changes. You can also assess your strategies and plans by asking the following questions:
Did the changes achieve our goals? Was the process successful – how well did you communicate the plans, implement the plans, engage the congregation in the plans? What could you have done differently? What did you and your congregation learn from this experience?
Many congregations are still waiting for normal to return and yet the new normal is here with us each and every day. We have moved beyond the Covid pandemic and are now living in endemic times. The only question is how you will engage it!