I was talking with our administrative assistant last week about her job description and how it bears little resemblance to the work she is currently doing. I’m sure this sounds familiar to most people right now. The pandemic has changed everything. This position, which she began last February, was originally centered around answering the phone and creating our weekly bulletin. Now, she is the one who videotapes our service on Saturday morning, edits the recording in the afternoon, and posts it to YouTube on Sunday morning. We added these tasks onto her job with a sense that our situation was temporary, but it isn’t.
Of course, everything has shifted in our world, including church life. Most churches used to view online operations as supplemental to in person activities, paper bulletins and announcements, and even paper sent through the mail. But now, the website is primary, YouTube, Facebook, and Zoom are essential. We made these changes with a sense that we were making temporary adjustments, finding ways to tread water while we waited for the pandemic to pass. But the pandemic isn’t passing quickly, and even in a post-covid world, many of these changes to our functioning are here to stay. This will mean hybrid virtual and in person worship services, “membership” that is less bound to geography, discovering new ways to do outreach and new ways to be community. This is not bad news. The truth is that most churches were struggling to keep the traditional models alive. We have entered a new and necessary season of experimentation and discovery. But, this means that we need to quit pretending our situation is temporary and begin to structure ourselves for the new reality.
Maybe our paid or volunteer staff needs to now include a media specialist, whose task is to form a team to create and manage the digital piece of our worship services. Maybe it is time to pay the person who develops and updates the website and social media. Perhaps our search for new mission and ministry opportunities can expand into the digital realm with tutoring or support groups. Maybe the old style phone tree needs to make a comeback as a way to create community. Perhaps the coming season will include reinvigorated small group or Stephen Ministries, as many may continue to find smaller number more manageable in the context of our new realities. The imagining and experimentation will continue.
We are walking into a season of unknowns. But, what is clear is that the answer to our current struggles is not to simply hold our breath and wait and hope for a time when everything will go back to the way it was. This is not a possibility. The opportunity is one of growth and inspiration as we trust that God is guiding us to more vibrant ministries in this unique time and place.