As the Covid era passes, employers and churches face some similar dilemmas. Employers struggle to decide how and whether to transition back to in-person work. Churches wonder whether they should try to bring everybody back into the sanctuary or accept remote worship as part of the new norm. Since going backwards is hardly ever successful, we need to benefit from one another’s thinking about how to move ahead.
The most lasting legacy of the Covid epidemic may not be the new ways people can show up, important as those are. The most lasting legacy may be new ways of thinking about when and whether to show up. For congregations, the era of attracting people by low expectations may have come to a belated end.
For reasons too familiar to go into, leaders in the political and public health realms have become allergic to pandemic mandates. Rules became advice, advice became guidelines—leaving leaders of school districts, universities, and congregations to make decisions based on gut feelings and political alignments. Community leaders need a firmer way to ground their Covid policies in science.
In a time when congregations and clergy are dealing with a lot of challenging issues, there is most definitely good news to celebrate. Congregations are more open to change today than at any time in my career as a pastor and consultant. During the pandemic, we learned a great deal about ourselves personally and as congregations. One of the most important and long overdue learnings: we need to change.
During this pandemic, many people, clergy included, have decided to resign from their jobs. Headlines about “The Great Resignation” may overstate the case—some people are just retiring or moving on to better jobs. But many ministers undoubtedly are wondering right now whether they should find another way to spend their lives. Many clergy who have …
Many are turning to planning now, trying to coax order out of the chaos. It would be lovely if planning resolved liminality. It doesn’t.
Plans create an artificial sense of control, but they cannot resolve the deep disorientation of a liminal season—a season in which something has ended but a new thing is not yet ready to begin. In fact, the wrong plan will distract you from the innovation needed to thrive in the next chapter.
As congregations start to emerge from the pandemic, a top priority is to re-establish a sense of belonging and community.
A friend of mine in Colorado says his current challenge is to reestablish “high touch” ministry. For the past two years, Hal and his staff have focused on “high tech.” They had to master technologies and related managerial strategies they never had imagined needing: livestreaming, Zoom meetings, virtually maintaining a sense of team in a staff, etc. Within the constraints of the pandemic, they struggled to remain in touch and engaged with their members. It was challenging at best. They kept up with pastoral care, but other ways of staying in touch with members often were not possible.