The COVID lockdowns have been difficult for everyone.
And churches are no exception.
In a recent article, I wrote about 12 Bad Habits Pastors Dropped During The Pandemic That We Shouldn’t Pick Back Up. But what about the lessons we learned during the lockdowns that we can build on for the long run?
Here are a few I’ve seen. Feel free to add others in the comments.
1. Technology Matters
This is listed first, not because it’s the most important lesson, but because it was one of the first ones we had to learn.
Live streaming has come of age in the past year.
While there are still congregations that don’t have the technical ability to go online – in rural areas with limited or no Wi-Fi, for instance – the lockdowns have probably pushed us close to a technical saturation point. Almost every church that will be live streaming or recording their services is doing so now.
We need to build on these newly-acquired technical tools for at least two reasons: 1) To minister to those who can’t meet in person due to illness or geographical distance, and 2) To reach those who are curious about the church and want to watch online before deciding to come in person.
2. People Matter More
Wow, how we missed each other!If this season has taught us anything, it’s how desperately we need each other and how important it is to stay connected. Click To Tweet
From families, to friends, to church, even to our in-person work environment. If this season has taught us anything, it’s how desperately we need each other and how important it is to stay connected.
Ministry should always be driven by glorifying God and ministering to people.
3. Worship Is Essential
In the debate over what buildings or businesses should stay open or closed, it always came down to “what are the essential services we can’t do without?”
If we didn’t know it already, it’s now confirmed. Worship is essential.
- Not our buildings
- Not our programs
- Not our musical instruments
- Not our schedules
We can lose all of that and still worship.
In fact, the more we lose the more essential worship becomes. Because the object of our worship stands strong.Don't slip back into an over-reliance on the trappings of worship. Keep Jesus at the center. Click To Tweet
Don’t slip back into an over-reliance on the trappings of worship. Keep Jesus at the center.
4. Ministry Is Personal
At the start of the lockdowns most of the conversations were about technical issues. How to record a church service. How to put it online. How to use videoconferencing.
But the conversation changed very quickly to “how do we keep the personal touch alive while we’re physically distant from each other?”
Ministry is more about personal connection than technical excellence. We re-learned that our phones are still phones. That a voice call feels closer than a text. That picking up extra groceries for a neighbor is a beautiful kindness.
Whatever lessons we’ve learned about reaching people on a personal level, let’s build on them.
5. Adaptability Must Be Built Into Our Processes
As I wrote in The Church Recovery Guide, adaptability was one of three key components that made the difference between churches that survived/thrived and those that struggled/collapsed during the lockdowns. (The other two were Resources in Reserve, and Team-based Leadership.)
The best plans aren’t static, they’re adaptable. Like the Apostle Paul, while always preaching Christ crucified he used different methods for different people and different circumstances (1 Cor 2:1-5 & 9:20-22).
Churches had to adapt a lot during the lockdowns. Don’t abandon those lessons. Build on them and become even more adaptable moving forward.
6. Integrity Is Our Baseline
Nothing has hurt churches or ministries more than a lack of integrity. Even if you and your church maintained your integrity, when any church leader acts hypocritically it affects all of us. Especially their victims.
Character matters. Without it we have nothing.
We need to walk uprightly, hold each other accountable, listen to victims, and do better from now on.
7. Health Is Our Engine
Physical, spiritual, emotional, mental and relational health is the engine that keeps us going. Without it we burn out very quickly.
As we come back from lockdown we are likely to discover areas of trauma and illness that we weren’t able to see before – both in ourselves and in others.Pastors, take care of your own souls, bodies, families, minds and relationships first. We can’t help others if we're running on an empty tank. Click To Tweet
Pastors, take care of your own souls, bodies, families, minds and relationships first. We can’t help others if we’re running on an empty tank.
8. Spiritual Growth Is Our Goal
Too many churches have been basing our idea of “success” on how many people showed up on Sunday. Then when they couldn’t show up we had to use a different metric.
Spiritual growth is what kept strong congregations together and should have been our metric for “success” all along. Let’s not go back to counting butts in the seats as our standard ever again.
9. Unity Is Our Witness
Second only to a lack of integrity, nothing can damage the church’s witness to the world faster than a loss of unity.
If your congregation survived or thrived during the lockdown, unity was a key reason why. And if we’re going to reach out as the lockdowns are lifted, unity will be our witness.
10. Preparation Will Help Us Respond Better The Next Time
“The next time? What?!”
This will happen again. Hopefully not a worldwide pandemic, but we live in a broken world where bad things happen. Hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, fires…
It’s not a matter of if we’ll be faced with another tragedy, but when.Pretending that everything will be fine going forward isn’t faith, it’s denial. Preparing for the next crisis isn’t doubt, it’s good stewardship. Click To Tweet
Pretending that everything will be fine going forward isn’t faith, it’s denial. Preparing for the next crisis isn’t doubt, it’s good stewardship.
If you weren’t as ready for this crisis as you should have been, learn from that and be ready for the next one. Mend your nets.
11. If We Haven’t Learned, We’ve Lost
The lockdowns were not a write-off. Not if we don’t let them be.
Certainly there were challenges, traumas, grief and loss. But we always learn more through valleys than mountaintops. If we’re willing to pay attention to the lessons being taught, that is.
When we learn from our losses we can make the next valley a little less painful and the next mountaintop a little more glorious.
(Photo by Martin Robles | Unsplash)