As more folks get vaccinated and COVID restrictions end, we all long for a return to normalcy. Still, leading congregations is hard work and may get harder as we pivot once again in response to changing circumstances. Some people and some congregations struggle even as good news comes. Part of our ministry will be to help each other move from languishing to flourishing.
A congregation I love is in the throes of recasting itself.
It has known who it is for decades—a healthy, largely well-to-do mix of young and old members who have learned from each other and loved each other while worshipping in a traditional form and leaning in a progressive direction. But now this solid, celebrated congregation is not working as well as it used to. Attendance was down even before the pandemic, the number of giving units is down, there are fewer young families, and of course no one knows whether people will return post-COVID. Members are beginning to sense that something must change.
Fifty-eight percent of professional workers say they are “more productive when working virtually, even if there are distractions such as a spouse and children at home.” This finding from a survey by the global consulting firm Korn Ferry is one of many indications that for some American workers, productivity has improved. How about your congregational staff? Has their productivity increased, decreased, or stayed the same since February 2020?
“My gut tells me underlying motives are at work here that are not being shared!” In the past month, I have heard several variations on this statement in online gatherings. Mistrust has become more prevalent and is giving birth to interpersonal conflict—in a time when we have less personal resilience to cope with it. We need to take greater care when we attribute motives for another’s actions in this precarious season.
The coronavirus is horrifying, and sometimes it feels that congregations are not doing their best to meet the challenge. But there are signs that God is at work, helping us to learn and to transform ourselves.
Two conversations I have had with clergy recently led me to ponder some of the undercurrents of doing ministry during this pandemic and the upheaval and uncertainty we are now swimming in. I was reminded of how important it can be to show up for each other.
It is too soon to create a definitive list of all the things we will have learned from this pandemic, but I’m clear about one thing—John Kotter was right that urgency does drive change. Under pressure from the Covid-19 pandemic and outrage over police violence against black people, congregations have made changes I thought I would never see. Will we be able to continue innovating when extreme urgency no longer forces us to do so?