The coronavirus pandemic has altered much of life, including life within the church. A year ago, who would have believed nearly every church would only offer livestream services or shut down completely? How Will Church Change After the Coronavirus
Two weeks ago, I gave the sermon at my own church. We could not have more than 10 people in the building. Five people led music, one person operated audio and video, and I spoke to an empty room. For Good Friday, I pre-recorded a message that one of our pastors is editing with other church musicians and staff, all from our own homes, to premiere for streaming on Good Friday. Church has certainly changed!
While I’m excited about the return to physical gatherings with my church family, many are wondering what will happen in the post-corona church. No one knows all the answers, but here are some areas to consider as your church prepares to reconnect in the days ahead.
As churches have been restricted from large gatherings, those who have attended sporadically or only for social reasons have disappeared. Many of these people will likely rarely if ever return.
I see this as a positive trend. Those who truly care about the body of Christ are the ones taking the steps to stay connected during this stay at home moment. Many who do not will simply find something else to fill their time.
Struggling Churches Will Die
Let’s face it, many American churches were already in bad shape before the coronavirus. Worse, these same churches are often the last to embrace new technology, meaning they were unprepared to continue worship via video or to receive online donations. Just as many small businesses fear they will never recover, some struggling churches will find themselves in the same situation.
Though it is sad to see a local church close, this is sometimes a necessary aspect of ministry life. These tough decisions will also result in the displaced believers looking for new church homes among healthier congregations.
Social Distancing Will Change Church Traditions
Number one, greeting times in church services will end or drastically change. At least for several months upon returning to church gatherings, there will be no hugs or handshakes.
In addition, many churches will no longer “pass the plate” for church offerings. To avoid the spread of germs, churches will shift to boxes at the entry points and increase digital giving.
Children’s ministries will also need to re-evaluate. How can your church claim your rooms are safe for kids? Some churches will leave kids with parents in worship, while others will focus on smaller classes and additional cleaning practices.
Further, the coronavirus may greatly increase the popularity of the small church, or at least small services. Who wants to attend a service of 1,000 or more people in the age of COVID-19? Even larger churches will likely add more service times or spaces to create service sizes that offer a feeling of safety to members.
Conferences, Camps, and Mission Trips Will Struggle Short-Term
Even when churches return to regular gatherings, the impact beyond the local church will continue for some time. Many well-known summer camps have already shut down programs for this summer. Major conferences have rescheduled or shifted to a virtual conference until at least next fall and, in some cases, next year.
Mission trips will take the hardest hit. Who will be willing to take a short-term mission trip to China or Italy anytime soon? Whether justified or not, many will not consider any international trips for the rest of 2020 or even beyond.
Local churches will be forced to discover new and creative ways to help fulfill the Great Commission, especially in areas hard-hit by the coronavirus, as people slowly reawaken to international travel. We may even see a surge in Christians entering medical missions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Digital Ministry Will Continue to Change Church Life
Thousands of American congregations shifted to livestreaming within a week. Most will continue to livestream services, since people may return slowly to regular services due to personal safety concerns.
Further, digital giving will only continue to increase. Two factors will drive this growth. First, safety will encourage church leaders to promote online giving to keep cash and checks circulating less frequently. Second, more church members will simply grow accustomed to online giving after doing so during the coronavirus.
Some time ago, a survey showed 70 percent of Americans no longer write checks. This would indicate at least this percentage of people within the average church would prefer online giving if made simple and safe.
It has been said every crisis is also an opportunity. In some cases, the coronavirus pandemic and #stayathome movement has hurt churches during Easter, considered the most important time of the year for attendance and giving.
Ministry in our post-corona society will include much damage, but is opening new doors as well. Let’s find ways to use this moment to encourage spiritual awakening, greater prayer, and renewed dependence on the Lord as we work to serve God’s people in the days ahead.