An “ever-changing situation” is how Mike Jackson of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions describes the current situation in church life due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The situation is … almost changing hour by hour in public school and even in football,” Jackson said. “It’s a time our church leaders face great strain.”
Director of the SBOM’s office of LeaderCare and church health, Jackson served as host for the SBOM webinar “Forecasting the Future.”
Returning to church
He referenced a recent post by former LifeWay Christian Resources CEO Thom Rainer who speculated that some church members won’t return after the quarantine.
“Those Rainer calls ‘cultural Christians’ may find it easier to not attend the church since it might not be as convenient as it once was,” Jackson explained.
George Yates, SBOM church health strategist, said every church must seek what works in its context.
“It may take us a few months or even years to get over the virus and social unrest in America, but going back to the way things were is unwise,” Yates said. “We must focus on sending, more than on gathering, for the work of discipleship.
“I don’t call it ‘the new normal,’ but I call it ‘the new reality,’” he said. “We must listen to multiple voices in making decisions these next months, not just to those ‘squeaky wheels’ at the moment. We have spiritually mature members to whom we must listen for counsel.”
Yates noted one church that recently prepared and delivered a special meal to its seniors. Now the church is talking about others they can serve.
“Service projects help us connect,” Yates explained.
Webinar co-host Ken Allen, also an SBOM church health strategist, noted that just as people can become disoriented after an injury, the church has received blow after blow and is experiencing “disorientation.”
“We’ll be inviting people to regather, and we need to help with their anxiety and explain the personal benefits,” he said. “We should explain how meeting together is God’s design for believers and benefits us in an emotional and spiritual way.”
Jackson noted some research suggests that an increased number of pastors could leave active ministry in the coming months.
“This could be the result of many post-pandemic factors including church closures, burnout/depression and conflict,” he said. “Pastors must network and connect in some way,” he noted. “Scripture commands us to bear one another’s burdens.”
Jackson also spoke about deaconship in the church in the face of a pandemic.
“It might be difficult to elect new deacons now, but churches can suggest extending the terms of their current deacons,” he said. “And [they] are important. They’re taking the lead in this time and helping our churches through their contributions.”
Yates noted another aspect of church administration, the nominating committee, which normally presents recommendations in September, but might be off schedule this year. He said there might be “a better way” to pursue the process.
“We sometimes ‘pick and choose’ from among those rotating off another committee, or someone who will always say ‘yes,’” Yates explained. “A better way is to ask church leaders to help. For example, a preschool leader can recommend to the nominating committee those he or she knows who have a heart for this work. Thus the nominating committee becomes a ‘clearing house’ of sorts.”
Allen noted budgeting is another difficult issue facing the church. “Maybe the church can have a ‘dream and hope’ meeting and identify between two and five priorities for budgeting,” he suggested. “It’s a good time to refocus on … how much the church can do for missional impact.”
Watch the full webinar at vimeo.com/452665927.
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