by Mary Frances
I’ve been getting this question a lot lately from my coaching clients. What should we be focusing on this Fall? Will things be “back to normal or should we still be adapting our ministries due to Covid?” Well, no one can really say if we are in post-Covid times or not. If you ask my family, they’d probably say “not” since half of them are recovering from Covid right now. We may, in fact, be entering the Covid endemic.
Covid will most likely be with us all the time now, just like seasonal influenza. So, how do we think about ministry in light of this ongoing presence of Covid? Here are two key things to think about as you make plans for the coming months:
Don’t focus all your energies on ministries within your building.
While it is tempting to try to turn inward now that more people are showing up for church and participating in activities, this is exactly the right time to turn your attention outward. Of course, Covid impacted your congregation, but it also made a huge impact on your community and your neighborhood. Some people are grieving the loss of a loved one, some businesses had to close over the last few years, and some non-profits may not be receiving the funding they were used to pre-Covid. In a way, it’s sort of like people coming out of their homes after a big storm; wandering around to check the damage. Set up times for community walks or prayer walks, visit with folks you pass on the street. Check in to see how things are going. Maybe set up some one-on-one conversations with key community leaders and business owners.
This would also be a great time to look at a Neighborhood Demographic Report (NDR). New census information came out late last year and many items on the report are updated annually. The NDR provides current data on population growth and composition from generational makeup to diversity and more. You can find the common characteristics of the key population groups in your area. Or you can look at how many people have been impacted by the challenges of the housing market, unemployment, or food insecurity. As you gather this information, you may feel the Spirit guiding the next steps of your ministry.
There is no “normal” to get back to.
Ever since the first weekend you closed your doors in March 2020, there have been people pushing for things to get “back to normal.” But normal doesn’t really exist anymore. We have all been changed by the last 2 ½ years in ways that we can hardly enumerate. Most congregations started digital worship, an online offering for Sunday mornings that stretches throughout the week for many people – from your church and from around the country. Some churches started online Bible studies, meetings, coffee hour, and much more. Going back to “normal” or the way things used to be would mean leaving all that behind. Recent research from Barna shows that 7 in 10 churched adults agree churches should continue to use digital resources. In addition, 21% of US unchurched adults are open to watching an online service alone. For those unchurched adults with a high digital openness, that percentage climbs to 87%.
While this research makes the point for continuing an online presence, it takes intentionality and, often, extra work to make it happen and happen well. Do you have a sense of your congregation’s capacity for this and other ministries right now? Why not have your congregation take the Congregational Vitality Assessment? It’s free and it will help you put your finger on the pulse of your congregation in 10 key ministry areas.
These simple tools could help you navigate the still uncertain days ahead as you determine where to focus your ministry. Questions? Email us [email protected]