During the pandemic, our staff have been encouraged to work from home, but Wednesday was one of those coincidences where most of us were in the office for one reason or another. Knowing that Premier Horgan and Dr. Bonnie Henry (why does everyone use both her names?) were updating the province on the plans to start lifting the restrictions imposed due to the pandemic, we gathered around a TV (practicing social distancing, of course!) to hear what they would say.
We all gasped when Premier Horgan announced that the ban on gathering in groups over 50 would remain in place through the summer and maybe even into the fall.
While we weren’t really surprised, I think all of us were holding out hope that our churches would be able to return to some semblance of “normal” sooner rather than later. **Please refer to the guidelines provided by your local area through your MLA**
If you haven’t already heard it from us, we are so proud of how the pastors and churches in the BCYD have quickly and creatively adjusted to doing church online! However, some have approached online church as a “stop-gap” measure until they can go back to what was; but the internet isn’t going to disappear, and online is here to stay.
The vast majority of pastors are reporting more views and higher engagement online than they ever expected. This is true no matter where you serve (rural, urban, etc.) and whom you serve (millennials, seniors, multi-generations, etc.). Online serves house-bound seniors, people with social anxieties and (eventually) members who travel for work or pleasure. It also helps those who want to know more about Jesus and your church but aren’t ready to show up in person – and that’s a huge win!
Your online presence – whether live streaming, Facebook Live or some other method – shouldn’t be an afterthought: it should become one of your primary ministry strategies, even after the restrictions are lifted.
I have a confession to make: I am old school when it comes to a lot of things.
I like “real” books; I would rather read an article than watch a YouTube video;
I take notes in a notebook and write with a fountain pen, and I’d rather go to church in-person than online.
As awesome as online is, being forced to stay physically distant from family, friends, and fellow churchgoers have elevated the value of our gatherings. Most of us are longing to worship in the same room with others, and when we shout “Amen!” at the TV, I don’t think it encourages the pastor in the same way (unless you’re watching yourself, of course!).
Premier Horgan and Dr. Bonnie Henry made it clear that gatherings of fewer than 50 are here to stay for the foreseeable future. What does that mean for our churches?
Small is the Sweet Spot
If your church is already under 50 in usual attendance, you’ve got the green light to start gathering again. In fact, you’re uniquely positioned to care for your people and serve your community in a way larger churches cannot. However, there are a number of things you have to think about:
For churches over 50 – which is most– the requirement to limit your gathering to fifty or fewer may feel like a major setback. Not only do you need to follow all the guidelines mentioned above, but it will create new complexities and will force you to rethink and retool. Maybe that’s a good thing.
Imagine if you could start your existing church from scratch; or if you could get a do-over in ministry. THAT is the opportunity the pandemic is giving you. Before you gather again, take the time to think through what you can / want to / need to change – from preaching style to worship to kids ministry to ongoing ministry initiatives to staff (!) to the facility and so on. Most people will be so thrilled just to be able to gather again that they might overlook many of the changes, and if they don’t, you can blame the pandemic (for a while, at least).
If you’ve been homeschooling your kids, you’re probably tired of doing math! But I’m talking about the multiplication of ministry.
Multi-Service – Even Premier Horgan mentioned this in his press release. This is a great strategy to reach more people than ever before! While starting another service usually takes a lot of planning and preparation, you’ve already shown that you can make major changes in a short span of time and then tweak it as you go along. This is the season for “ready, fire, aim” ministry, so don’t avoid doing something new because it’s … new. And don’t get stuck on multiple Sunday services: you may be able to reach more people by offering services throughout the week.
Micro-Sites – Multi-site has been the domain of mid- to large-size churches, but this is a strategy that every church over 50 should consider. You can gather people around simple worship and play the message you recorded for your online expression – and still have a strong sense of community.
If your facility is big enough, you can use more than one room to run concurrent services. But you can also launch micro-sites in new locations. Imagine if you had services at Ted’s garage, Susan’s barn, Jake & Val’s backyard and so on. You might be able to reach people in brand new neighbourhoods and communities with these new sites!
Small-Group Ministry – If you’ve struggled to start or maintain a small group ministry, this is a golden opportunity to finally get some traction. This is especially true if you decide to relaunch after the restrictions around gathering have been relaxed further (or eliminated).
I’ve been going to church all my life and in pastoral ministry for almost 30 years. I have never seen a more unsettling time for the church in North America! If you’ve made it this far and you’re still thinking, “I need some help figuring out what’s next” we are here to help! Specifically, …
Our website is constantly updated with a curated list of resources to help you
Ken Russell is an expert when it comes to board leadership and conflict resolution
Darwin Pichette can help you with all the acronyms: CEWS, EI-SUB Plan, EI Work Share, CEBA; as well as anything else to do with finances, governance and so on.
Mark Lewis is our resident revitalization expert. If your church is plateaued, declining or generally stuck, he can help you thrive again.
Len DenBraber can help you rethink ministry, strategize for the future, manage staff, develop small groups and go multi-service, micro-site or multi-site.