Posted by: boonisland | October 30, 2020

There are church experts all around you

The concept of church conferences has been around for awhile. The idea is to gather for training, encouragement and networking. The fundamental principle for many conferences is to get an expert in the field to come and share their practical experience. The better known they are the better it is for attendance and funding. Even better still is if they have a book and resources they can offer to attendees. It’s hard to argue with the success of this model. A well known speaker has drawing power and gives some credibility to the event along with high value factor. Because this person is well known and respected the expectation of gaining something significant is high.

But when it comes to small churches, this model has proven to be an obstacle for small church leaders. Too often, the best known platform speakers are from the largest churches and have a large church mentality background and experience. This can make it difficult for the pastor of a rural church of 50 to relate. Thankfully there are other conference popping up now that address this issue. But I want to challenge every pastor and small church leader reading this to consider an alternative. I’m not arguing against conferences but I think we miss one of the most valuable resources we have at our disposal – other small church pastors.

So often, the answer to the questions we’re asking about ministry could be answered by a small church pastor, possibly right down the street from us or in the next town. If we’re only asking “how do I grow my church numerically?” then go to a big conference devoted to answering this question. There are many resources about breaking attendance barriers, removing obstacles to visitors and making your platform look more polished and professional. But there are better questions to ask. Like –

What does it take to serve in the same church/town for 30 years? How do I maintain stamina and passion for such a ministry? Could it be that we’re not asking this question because we have no intention of pursuing such a ministry path? I short survey of pastors in your denomination, city or county would probably reveal several pastors for whom you could buy lunch and pick their brains awhile.

How do I . . . This question could be finished in endless ways. It is the question we sometimes ask ourselves and end up trying multiple programs or initiatives to answer only to be frustrated and back where we started. Just as there are tradesman with specialties (like the carpenter who excels at crown molding or the electrician who is specializes in commercial applications) there are pastors around you with specialties. Want to start a blog? Improve your volunteer engagement? Strengthen your preaching? Grow in your leadership? Chances are there is a pastor near you who could help you with these things.

A conference is good for a renewal of passion and a break from the day to day of ministry. But if you want real help, look to the deep well of resources around you – other small church pastors. I’ve long said that it would be nice to go to a huge conference and have the pastor of a 75 member church deliver a keynote. You might say, his church is only 75 because he’s a lousy preacher. I would say, there are many incredible preachers all over the world serving in obscurity. The size of ones church may have very little to do with the talent, passion and skill of the pastor and everything to do with God’s plan for that local body.

Before you drop $1,000 to listen to experts from a platform, look around. Who might be an expert in the very area you need help? It is likely there is a small church expert near you.

Posted by: boonisland | October 16, 2020

How worship is changing for the better

2020 has been a year of upheaval and sweeping change across multiple disciplines and every level of society. Within the church, there have been massive shifts in the way we gather, how we use technology and how we shepherd congregations. One aspect of the church that has changed is corporate worship and I think it’s a good thing. Here’s 3 ways . . .

Meaningful vs. Routine – When lockdowns began in March churches closed their doors to the public and moved services online. For months our congregations watched a live stream and though it was nice to “attend” church in their pajamas many Christians longed for a return to in person gatherings. They missed the face to face fellowship and the physical touch and proximity to their church family. As churches gather again, it’s possible that even though the overall numbers may be smaller, the people gathering are appreciating Sunday services in a deeper way. It means more now to get together after having it taken away. I see this in our own local body as more of our people are not taking Sundays for granted. They are participating and enjoying gatherings and singing more robustly, hugging more freely and conversing more readily than before. We are still missing perhaps 30% of our number but those that attend are more passionate than before quarantine.

Personal vs. Impersonal – Smaller attendance and socially distanced seating restrictions make for a more personal experience. If a church was seating 250-300 before COVID they are now 100 or less per gathering. There is something special about being able to look around the room and personally acknowledge every person in attendance. So often our church gatherings are an impersonal entrance, singing output, sermon input, impersonal exit without ever interacting with people around us. It can happen in any size church. What I am seeing is people lingering longer afterward, connecting, talking, pursuing relationship. The pandemic has pointed some people toward closer friendship and highlighted the need for a personal approach to church rather than a transaction based approach that simply “checks the box” of church attendance.

Closeness vs. Distanced – Some churches create an atmosphere on Sunday mornings that involve darkness, stage lighting, fog machines and whatever makes singing feel more like an “experience”. Others just stand with all the lights on and sing. Others crank the music up so loud you can’t hear your own voice. We are more like the second one and while I can’t speak for every worship style, in my own church I am observing a change in our worship times. There are fewer people in attendance but louder voices singing together (see point 1). This means people are less self-conscious about being heard. No one is getting lost in a crowd of voices. As I preach I’m not looking at a bunch of faces. I am looking into the eyes of individuals (which I try to do anyway but it’s alot easier to single people out when there’s only 35 and they are spread out) and they are looking back at me. They are feeling more freedom to respond to my questions (which are usually rhetorical but there’s always a few that feel compelled to answer). Between the music and the preaching and the smaller numbers I am sensing a greater intimacy in our corporate worship – a togetherness and connection that is only increasing as the weeks go by.

Some are looking at 2020 as being a rough year and are feeling like it has done damage to the church. Take a second look. Chances are there are good things happening. We just need to see it.

Posted by: boonisland | October 7, 2020

Making your daily schedule work better – so you can too

In a small church, the way a leader uses his or her time makes a huge difference in their ministry. Small, rural churches might have a reputation of being slower paced and having a less rigid schedule than a larger suburban or urban ministry. But most pastors of a small and healthy rural ministry will tell you that this is not necessarily so.

Less of us to go around

In a smaller church the pastor is often the primary discipler, caregiver and ministry trainer. Though every effort is made to raise up leaders, small church pastors may spend years wearing all these hats as they develop others. This puts the small church pastors time at a premium. Every encounter, every meeting, every hour has high value and should be treated accordingly. Small churches tend to run at a 75-100 to 1 ratio. That’s alot of people to care for, disciple and train. Again, pastors should be raising up others to help but this is often easier said than done. This means the pastor of a small church is busy and not with committee meetings, staff meetings and planning sessions. His or her day is filled with phone calls to members, home visits, conversations over coffee and a great deal of administrative work (unless the church is blessed to have an administrative assistant). And of course, sermon study and preparation, small group meeting prep and men’s or women’s bible study prep. How does the small church pastor make the most of their time?

Using time wisely

Spend time investing “in” rather than “with” – One of the best thing I’ve done in the last year is to shift my mentality from spending time with people to spending time investing in people. What’s the difference? Over my years in ministry I’ve found that God will bring someone to mind that I haven’t talked to or seen in some time and so I will call them or visit them. This is an important function of shepherding. But before I do this now, I consider, “what is my purpose?” Am I simply going to this person’s home or meeting them for coffee to “hang out” or am I going so I can invest in their lives in a meaningful way? It could be argued that just being there for them is enough. But I want to be there AND leave them with something of value that points toward their spiritual growth and discipleship. So I go to invest in people rather than just spend time with them.

Mapping – I’ve always been a high C on the DiSC profile which means I like order and lists and routine. So this may not be a great idea for an S or i but I like to map my week. I have printed my own one-page to-do list for the last 15+ years of ministry. It is categorized into admin tasks, vision and mission, training and development, teaching and preaching, personal growth, member care, miscellaneous and personal or home tasks that I don’t want to forget. This corresponds to any appointments that are plugged into my phone. And then I map the days of the week Monday night or Tuesday morning so I have a rough idea of where I’m headed and on what days and by the look of my to do list I can gauge how busy I’ll be as I do it. At a glance I can tell where I stand on what day and if the Friday and Saturday wrap up will be peaceful or hectic.

Prioritizing/Delegating – I have long been a fan of Greg Ogden and his books, Transforming Discipleship, Unfinished Business and Discipleship Essentials. His primary message is, turn ministry over to the people according to Ephesians 4:12. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry. It is Scripture such as this and books by trusted leaders that have helped me periodically sit down and list every task I’m performing within the church. If anything appears on the list that could easily be delegated or given to another leader I do so. I also prioritize what’s on the list. It’s easy for things that are not necessarily within our job description to slowly rise until they are taking more time than they should. Many pastors experienced this during the COVID lockdowns as we spent way too much time trying to figure out live streaming, camera technology and computer compatibility for our presentation software. It was necessary but not our expertise. Prioritize what we do well and delegate what others can do better.

The better we manage our time, the more effective we will be in our small church ministry.

Posted by: boonisland | September 22, 2020

Pastoral Preaching Performance Anxiety

They were innocent comments and deep down I knew it. I shouldn’t feel threatened by them and yet my ego is like an overripe peach. What were the comments? Two church members discussing their favorite preachers. Guess who was NOT mentioned? Some prominent TV preachers were named but not me. I get it. They’re on TV for a reason. I understand that over the last year, some people would rather watch a well produced TV preacher ‘show’ than a livestream video of a church service where you’re not sure each week if the guitar is going to sound like a ukulele or not. And yet, it still gets under the leader’s skin. And so the leaders starts thinking, “what do I have to do, to compete? How do I stay ahead of this attrition, this departure to ‘greener pastures'”?

It’s easy to turn our weekly opportunity to teach, into our weekly opportunity to negatively pressure ourselves. This is definitely enhanced by the current climate where people are not able or willing to worship in person. Early during the quarantine there was a push to pivot the church into online services if we didn’t already do it and to upgrade our streaming if we did. We entered a phase where we had to remind ourselves that preaching to a screen feels different than preaching to a crowd. Then we had to adjust to the fact that not as many people are watching the sermon livestream as we thought or hoped. And now we must adjust to the reality that some people will never return to our churches on Sunday. That’s alot to process in career of ministry let alone in 6 months!

Pastors may be feeling a subtle pressure these days to “up their game” or do something to offset the loss they are feeling due to absent members, fear or policy battles. There is a pressure to perform at a certain level – to make our gatherings, and our preaching, more exciting or engaging. Not that those are bad things but they can easily take our focus off of other important matters like caring for people and leading well.

I am always evaluating my preaching. Each week I gather feedback and I think through the highs and lows of each sermon. I want to make sure I am preaching and teaching to the best of my ability. I never want to get to the point where I’m “phoning it in”. If that happens it’s time to resign. But what do we do when it seems like no amount of evaluation and improvement can stem the tide of congregants flowing toward other churches, preachers and livestreams? Remember these things:

  1. Preachers are called to faithfulness. Paul said to Timothy, follow the pattern you’ve seen in me and then, 2 Timothy 1:14 [14] By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. (ESV) A pastors role is to steward the Gospel. As we are faithful to that task we reap a reward. We are not called to entertain, appease or make truth palatable. We are those to whom God has entrusted a serious task – the communication and guardianship of the Gospel
  2. We are not responsible for the decisions of the people in our care. Each person in the church must answer to God for their own decisions, including whether or not they will attend or where they will attend. It is no sin for someone to watch and be fed by another pastor. It is no sin to watch the livestream of another church. The issue here is not whether we should be our congregations favorite preacher or not but what our response is to the answer they give. We are responsible for ourselves before God and to make sure our hearts are right.
  3. We will never know the full fruit of our ministry until well after the labor concludes. If there is preaching anxiety at all it should be because we are so excited for what God wants to communicate that we can hardly wait until Sunday. We should not be anxious over whether our preaching performance is on par with _________ (fill in this blank with whatever teacher you like). If you are being faithful to Christ, you can be assured that God is using you, whether it results in an uptick of attendance and livestream views or a downturn. The “experts” will tell you that if attendance goes down something is terribly wrong. That may be true – but it may not. Isaiah 55:11 tells us that no word of God goes out purposeless. It accomplishes what God intends. If you are faithfully preaching God’s words you can claim this promise. He is using you!

Don’t succumb to pastoral preaching performance anxiety. Faithfully proclaim God’s word, in and out of season, leaving the results in God’s hands.

Posted by: boonisland | September 16, 2020

It’s not the attendance numbers – it’s something deeper

Everyone is offering analysis and solutions to the issues facing the church right now in a pandemic environment. Countless webinars offer the latest statistics and ways to maximize your church’s services to reach your community. I haven’t listened to and analyzed all these web offerings and I’m not saying they are completely wrong to present their suggestions. (I’m about to offer my own.) But in the ads and webinar synopses I’m reading there is an aspect that seems to be missing. I’m seeing alot of content related to the public gatherings, public safety, health concerns, reaching and engaging people online and staying current in the pulpit. What I’m not seeing is a concern for discipleship.

Discipleship was an issue long before COVID. We, the American church, are so prone to put our emphasis on getting people in the doors of the church that we often neglect their growth once they arrive. This problem has now been compounded by the fact that even fewer people are coming in the doors on Sunday (if we are even meeting indoors) and if your church is like mine there are still people you haven’t seen since March who not only won’t come to a public gathering but also don’t want anyone outside their family in their house. We want to keep them connected to our church family but discipleship (real growth in Christ) is difficult to achieve via streaming sermons. Sunday attendance and online viewers are just not good measures of success right now (if they ever were). A better question is, who is making deliberate strides to grow in their faith right now?

How do we help people grow in their faith during these challenging times? 1. Make it personal – If you’ve never had people in one-on-one or one-on-two faith learning groups, now is the time to start. If you have some former Sunday School teachers or small group leaders, equip them to lead a person or two through a growth study like The Colossians 2:7 series, Discipleship Essentials or Design for Discipleship.

2. Make it family – Equip parents in your congregation to lead their families in studying God’s Word. You can’t make them do it but you can give them the tools. Many youth groups are still not meeting. Encourage and equip parents to have Biblical conversations with their kids.

3. Make it important – We have to be honest here. We don’t talk about discipleship nearly enough in our churches. We hope that people will grow in our services or in their own personal time with Jesus but we are not encouraging it by providing enough opportunities for people to be made into followers of Jesus. Talk about it, outline a plan for growth, be a connector by pairing people in your church for the purpose of mutual growth in Christ. There’s a very good chance our churches will take years to bounce back to pre-COVID attendance levels but that doesn’t mean we can’t do even greater and more powerful ministry than before. We can start measuring success by a new metric – how many people connected to our church are actively growing in their faith through an intentional spiritual mentoring relationship?

Posted by: boonisland | September 3, 2020

When ministry doesn’t go as planned

When I was a youth pastor I spent months designing a process to disciple our teens. It had all the bells and whistles, lots of diagrams, catchy names and acronyms (I’m pretty sure F.I.R.E. was one of them, which I defend aggressively because it was the early 2000’s and every youth group name had fire in it.) It was my baby. I birthed it and it went absolutely no where. Ditto for the grand plan I had for a baseball diamond-style church growth plan (it was my purpose driven phase).

If you are in pastoral ministry you know that not every idea, program, initiative or event is going to go as planned. I have folders (from pre 2005) and thumb drives crammed with ideas and plans from over 20 years in ministry , most of which didn’t go exactly as I intended. Some are ideas I spent months preparing and promoting that landed among our church with all the enthusiasm of a jellyfish out of water. It could have been my delivery, my failure at promotion, having the right idea at the wrong time or any number of issues related to vision and ministry success. What I have learned is that there are 4 main ways we tend to deal with ministry that flops, fails to meet expectations or just falls flat.

Rationalize – This is common as we struggle find perfectly acceptable, valid reasons for the failure of our initiative. “The people are stubborn”, “We needed more time”, “We’re too far ahead of the innovation curve” (probably not a common reason but hey, it could happen) or “We didn’t have the support of the rest of the leadership”. The bottom line here is that we make excuses and this excusing doesn’t help us drill down to understand what might have gone wrong.

Despair – These types of ministry flops are what can cause pastors to despair and start believing a career in insurance sales looks pretty good. It’s heart wrenching to pour your life into something you know will bless people and change your church for the better only to have it ignored or worse, criticized. Despair takes many forms but it shows itself in us when we are critical, angry, feel hopeless and believe our efforts are futile. If you’ve had a series of setbacks I would highly recommend talking with someone who can encourage you and give you some perspective. A good example is PIR Ministries.

Retool – If we can push past the frustration and despair we can begin to retool our ministry. There may be some things we can adjust, replace or fix that will make a ministry or initiative run more smoothly. I know I struggled for years to add to our roster of small groups. It seemed like no one wanted to lead or attend a small group. I tried several ways to encourage this but it wasn’t until I decided to stop leading a group myself that people finally stepped up. There’s a major leadership lesson there too but primarily I knew small groups were important and I wasn’t giving up until I found the right formula for our church.

Move forward – There are times when you put your heart and soul into the ministry plan and it bombs. I’ve bombed hard over the years. I almost single-handedly killed a building program in my first church when I – acting as the building committee chairperson – answered a congregant’s honest question with a smart alec response. There was no retooling that! Our church voted the building proposal down and the only choice was to move forward. Moving forward doesn’t mean we never assess what happened or think about what we do differently next time. It simply means that we don’t flog ourselves or our congregations for perceived wrongs or failures. We trust that God has the right plan along with the right timing for us. The good news is that we haven’t been called to always have brilliant ideas or for all of our ministry ideas to work all the time. We have been called to faithfulness.

So the next time your ministry plan fails, retool if possible and if not, move forward. The only thing you get from looking backward and beating yourself up for failures is a crick in the neck and a black eye. Look forward to what God has for you next.

I’m a list maker. Groceries, household projects, chores, to do lists, books I want to read etc. I love the satisfaction of crossing something off the list because it means I accomplished something. What I want to avoid is just having a fleeting thought about something and saying, “I’ll get to that someday.” Someday is a word I try not to use. Variants include, “one of these days” or “when I get around to it”. But I’m not just talking about procrastination. About putting off til tomorrow what you can do today. I’m talking big picture stuff.

I put together a booklet that contains my personal vision and goals for the next few years. There are things in the booklet that I spent a few years saying I would get to, “someday”. For example, I wrote my first book in 2011. I had said since high school that I would love to write a book someday. I finally did it. In just under 20 years. I never again want 20 years to go by before doing those big things. After I wrote that book, Strong , my list shifted. I had accomplished something.

Many of my goals and vision for life shifted to the church I pastored and its growth and success. But even during a busy ministry season there were things I wanted to accomplish. My experiences as a small church pastor birthed a conference, Small Church BIG Deal. Out of the conference grew another book, Small Church BIG Deal. I also had a trip to Europe with my wife on the list and we did that in March of 2019 to celebrate 20 years of marriage. From there my passion for writing grew, birthing a sequel to Strong called Survival Road. I know, by now this sounds like a sales pitch to buy my books. Yes, buy them. They’re good. But that’s not my point.

What’s on your list? The list of things you’re going to do someday. There’s that word again. I don’t know what’s on your list. Here are some things that may be on a list or two:

Learn that foreign language: Write that memoir: Raise those funds: Give those things away: Go on that missions trip: Mentor that person: Spend time with that friend: Teach that course

The list could go on and on. Someday is a great way of saying, “probably never, but it’s nice to dream.” I want you to know, life does not have to be that way. I believe we can do the things God has put in our hearts to do. Why are those dreams and desires there? Could it be that God is actually pushing you toward those things so he can accomplish something great in you and through you. “Someday” short circuits God’s work in you. I realize that right this very minute may not be the right time to start working toward that goal or that dream. But nothing is stopping you from planning and preparing.

Every person on this planet was created for a purpose. The older I get the better idea I have of what mine is. Of course I’ll never fully know the infinite mind of God but to the best of my knowledge I know what I’m here to do. Do you? Or will you think about it ‘someday’?

The COVID crisis has forced churches into a dilemma. They could no longer expend their energy trying to fill the building. Pastors and church leaders had to redirect their efforts into streaming online in a new way. Audio issues, video quality and online communication all moved front and center and numbers (at least for a time) took a backseat.

Now that things are slowly shifting back to in person meetings (the status of which changes week to week) I wonder if we will remember the lessons quarantine taught us. Here are a few I will remember:

  1. Love, sincerity and enthusiasm cover a multitude of sins – As I streamed the sermon weekly from an empty building I tried to imagine myself talking to church members as they sat on their couch or cooked breakfast. I tried to communicate my love for them as I spoke and continued that throughout the week by texting and emailing them and livestreaming from Facebook each day. What they felt from me and other leaders made it easier to accept when the volume on the video went out or the livestream froze or the music sounded tinny and weak.
  2. Online viewer counts are terrible metrics – Our weekly attendance hovered between 80 and 90 before COVID but during the quarantine the number of people watching was much less when live (sad face). But it slowly climbed through the week (happy face). Then I found out that many of those “views” only watched for 4 or 5 minutes (sad face). But we had people watching who had never attended before and maybe they would stay connected after COVID (happy face)! We’ve been in person now for over 2 months and our attendance hasn’t bounced back (sad face). I could do this all day. This just reveals that if quantity is your favorite and/or only metric, you lose as often as you win.
  3. Quality is easier to control than quantity – I can always ask for help, hire a consultant or a professional to enable me to perform my ministry at a higher quality level. But, ultimately, quantity is not under my control. We can play games with numbers, elevate them to top importance, play percentages as far as building capacity, people serving, people in small groups but we can’t control them.
  4. There is no substitute for a group of believers joining together in worship – I’d like to think that for a time during quarantine we forgot about quality AND quantity altogether and simply appreciated the blessing of being together as a Christian family. Of course we want to reach as many people as possible and yes we want to do things with excellence but no matter how excellent the presentation or how many people watch online, fellowship and a celebration of the Gospel must be the goal and the result.

Posted by: boonisland | August 11, 2020

The church’s old way forward is new again

I’m stepping into dangerous territory by saying the church doesn’t need a new way forward – especially since conventional wisdom dictates that in the midst of pandemics, lockdowns and riots (and election years?) we should be rethinking our approach to ministry. I’ve written already about not changing everything this year. But if we’re not changing everything, what ARE we doing that will stand the test of time? What are we doing that will penetrate the lostness and chaos around us? I propose three things that are simple to say but more difficult to execute.

  1. Help your church fall in love with God’s Word – The more we lose ourselves in social media and 24 hour news the farther we get from the simplicity and beauty of God’s Word. I won’t bore you with lists of statistics about the dearth of Christians actually reading and studying God’s Word but a brief look tells us it’s not good. I am convinced that in an age of relative truth where even 2+2=4 can’t be asserted without argument, God’s Word stands as a pillar, an anchor, a place where absolutes ground us, not just in assertions but a Person. This is what Christians desperately need. Scripture is the very words of God breathed out to us. (2 Tim. 3:16) We can help them fall in love with it by memorizing Scripture together as a church, studying passages together in our home/small groups, doing a Scripture reading plan together as a church. No matter how we do it, point people back to it over and over. In a world where Bible burning has occurred more than once throughout history, it’s important that we treat His Word as the treasure it is or we risk losing our connection to it.
  2. Develop Christians who actually want to spend time together in community – If we spent the last 4 decades trying to get people in the church into smaller home groups, we’ve spent the last 4 months trying to get people to connect, period. Some churches excel at small group ministry. If your church is like mine there are people you can’t keep away from a group and others you couldn’t pay to be in a group. As our culture continues to social distance and mask we are in ever increasing need of real, direct, human interaction. Perhaps the pandemic has illustrated that to you and your church. There are reasons not to connect – relationships and community are messy, demand something of us, can be inconvenient, require us to bring something to the group (input, bible study homework, bundt cake?) and in general ask us to give our time. We must help our churches see the value of spending time together in community. Lives changed, prayers answered, needs met, growth in Christ experienced . . . all of these need to be explained and promoted.
  3. See Christians grow in their personal evangelism – It’s obvious that ministry will be different for a while, even in a post-COVID world. How many people will show up for a huge event at your church or be willing to send their children to a big midweek program? Not many. I know the standard answer here is, “shift it to online!” I understand the value and timeliness of such advice but can I suggest that instead of keeping programming, events and outreach at the leadership level we use this opportunity to shift ministry to our people? I once heard a mega church pastor say that ministry gets done more by volunteers than staff once you hit 4000 in weekly attendance. I strongly disagree. More ministry must be done by volunteers than staff no matter what size you are. Ephesians 4:12 give the job description of all teachers, apostles, prophets and leaders – to equip the saints for the work of ministry. The limitations pastors faced during the height of the pandemic are what they still face. The best way for Jesus to be proclaimed right now is for each person in the church to take it as their personal mandate to be a witness for the Gospel of Jesus. I don’t advocate an evangelism training seminar or even a teaching series, though that could help. What I recommend is focusing on helping people love God’s word and embracing Christian community so excitement about their faith is renewed. Wouldn’t we rather have Christians telling friends about Jesus than about some program or event at our church building?

There’s nothing new about these 3 things. They are old ways. But maybe that’s what we need. To make the old ways our new way forward.

Posted by: boonisland | August 5, 2020

Is it time for the small church to change everything?

As 2020 grinds on there is very little that can be relied upon day after day. Since the early days of COVID19, one by one, the things we depend on have been knocked down – steady employment, strong economy, ability to take vacations, toilet paper and Clorox wipes being on the shelves, being able to visit loved ones in the hospital or have a normal funeral service. The list could go on and get quite long of all the things that have changed in the wake of COVID.

Influencers and church growth gurus have been promoting workshops and seminars on how to shift to a post-COVID ministry world. I agree that there are definitely changes that need to be made, mostly relating to sanitizing our buildings, masking and continuing to reach those in our congregation who, because of health concerns, we haven’t seen in months. But is this the time to completely revamp our ministry strategy? Is this the time to change everything to accommodate a post COVID world?

  1. It feels like a natural period of transition. Moving from meeting virtually to now being able to meet in a limited capacity seems like this would be a good time to change if in fact that is what’s needed. If, after some evaluation you feel some things need to change in your church, by all means, make the change. But don’t change for its own sake. Don’t change because a well-known church leader told you to. If you’re going to change something make it intentional, purposeful.
  2. There are many innovations being made right now. Online services, drive in services, Zoom calls, other new ways of connecting and more all seem like great ideas and may be tempting to try. Some of those ideas probably seem right for you. But are they needed? Do you have the personnel to run it? Will it provide a greater return on your investment than what you are doing now?
  3. Culture is changing rapidly. Many of the foundational ideas from the last few decades seem to be coming to bear all at once on a fragile and fractured country. The consequences of Postmodernism, censorship, Critical Theory and much more are now in full bloom. It feels like the church needs to respond in some grand way.
  4. The news changes daily. Every news cycle feels like it calls for a response from the church. What will we say? How will we lead in light of this new information? It feels like people are waiting to hear from us.

These all seem like good reasons to change our church. But I think better reasons to change our church is that God is speaking to the people and to the leadership. God is opening doors of opportunity in your community or needs are presenting themselves to you and your church has the means to meet them.

When you get an email or see an ad that tells you to change your church and here’s how, because of COVID – that’s marketing. That’s creating a problem you may not even have. Truth does not change. People’s needs have not changed. Our calling and ministry have not changed. Many innovations present enticing alternatives and feel like worthy investments. What if our time is better spent in faithfully doing what we know we should be doing – shepherding, praying, preaching? I’m not saying we never innovate or change things. But I believe that we can get so caught up in trying to be on the cutting edge and making changes our church may or may not be ready for – or may or may not even need – that we forget our first calling – to shepherd the flock of God. It may in fact be time to change everything at your church. COVID has certainly turned many things upside down. Just make sure it’s for the right reasons.

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