I don’t know about you, but the last few weeks have felt like an eternity for me. I’ll be talking with my wife and reference something that I think happened a month ago, and she’ll politely remind me that it was last week. I also can’t seem to remember what day of the week it is anymore—my wife also stopped me in my tracks recently as I started rolling our trash cans to the curb two days early. Needless to say, I’m thankful for her. This season has been jarring to say the least. And while the first several weeks put many churches (rightfully so) in crisis mode, most of us have learned to adapt to this new normal we’re in. I think that’s a good sign that we’re adapting to our situation well. But I’m seeing three big questions emerge as this “coming-out-of-crisis-mode” shift takes place. They center around the what, when, and how of moving ministry forward, with sustainability.
What is the new normal?
We might not know what day of the week it is, but we do know that life has been altered. What was normal is no longer. When life settles into whatever life will look like post-COVID-19, it will certainly look different. That extends into the church, too. Worship services, ministries, and gatherings are bound to look different than they used to. Some of that is okay though. That means it’s a great time for us to ask important questions about what’s most important to our ministry. What had we been doing (pre-pandemic) that we don’t need to do any longer? Moving ministry forward means asking what have we learned during this time? How can we better utilize this “new” technology to connect, support, and expand the mission of the church?
When will the church meet together again?
Whatever that new normal ends up being, we’re nowhere near that point yet. In the beginning of March, many of us thought this would be a short-term, temporary shut-down. Now stay-at-home orders have extended to almost every state and province across North America. Those orders have already been extended in many places, so we don’t really know when we’ll even be able to go back to the family diner down the street, much less go back to having worship services like we used to do them.
How can we ensure sustainability?
We don’t know what normal is going to look like, and we don’t know when we’re going to be able to figure that out. So that means we need to allow space for our staff and leadership to create systems, services, and ministries that are sustainable. Working 80 hours a week is doable for two or three weeks, but that’s not sustainable. When you’re still working 80-hour workweeks four or five months down the road, it’s completely unhealthy and will lead to destruction. Realize what’s doable for your church and ministry leadership, and don’t overdo it. Whatever you’re doing, do it well. But have serious conversations about what is and is not realistic for the next several months: in other words, about sustainability. You’re not the Savior; you just need to point to him. Here are three ways you can help create a sustainable environment in your worship services.
1. Realize that people are worshipping differently now
Your church may be used to having a 75-minute service twice every Sunday. But now is the time to change that. Your focus needs to be on the gospel, connecting people, and providing support. Find ways to provide that space—that may mean you do seven 5-minute clips and publish them each day of the week, rather than one 35-minute sermon. It may mean shorter worship services that people can access when it’s right for their family. Try different things. Find what works for you.
2. Utilize the tools available
There are tons of music artists, publishing groups, and video services that have made their content or services available to you—either for free or at some sort of discount. The point is this: there are tons of tools available. You don’t need to do everything in-house just because you usually do. Sustainability means get creative, get innovative, and use what you have at your disposal.
3. Don’t put unnecessary strain on your tech team
Whether you’re live streaming, pre-recording, or doing something different for your church services, this season is already putting more pressure on your (almost always very limited) tech team. While they try to operate on a shoestring budget, with as minimal staff and volunteers as possible, the reality is that your services rely heavily on this team. Sustainability means we must take care of them.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused all of us to make major changes. But we still have more adjustments to make. Let’s continue to serve well, because sustainability is a marathon rather than a sprint.
This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.