12 Ways We Might All be Different when We Gather Again as Congregations

We’re all looking forward to the day when we’re past this COVID-19 crisis enough that our churches can worship together again. None of us can know for certain how we’ll be different when that happens, but here are some of my guesses. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  1. Many folks will be less concerned about minor things that they previously elevated as major. After months of being separated, some of us may find that the things we used to fight over were just silly.
  2. We’ll be less inclined to go to church if we’re feeling bad. Some believers had already grown accustomed to staying home with each cough, but now more of us will likely follow suit—and necessarily so. Older folks will especially be careful.
  3. Churches will be more sensitive to safety and cleanliness protocols in the nursery and children’s departments. Washing hands, sanitizing toys, and cleaning furniture never have been optional, but more church leaders will emphasize these responsibilities.
  4. We’ll continue having some leadership meetings, small groups, and equipping sessions via electronic means. We’ll still go back to on-campus events, but we’ve also learned that we can do a lot without gathering in person. In fact, some of us have seen even greater attendance in small groups.
  5. Online giving will continue to grow. Even those of us who have been less willing to give online have learned that it works – and, it’s easier than writing a check every week.
  6. We’ll have to utilize, affirm, and celebrate multiple services in multiple locations. At least for a while, many of our churches still won’t be permitted to gather in large groups—so we’ll still need to adjust our approaches.
  7. Congregations will need to be prepared to help with benevolence needs. Even if some of our members are out of work for only a few months, the needs will still be greater than they’ve been in the recent past. Churches will need to prioritize taking care of each other.
  8. We may be more open to making hard budget calls. Nobody knows for certain how this crisis will affect giving in the months to come. Churches may, however, face reducing staff—and I suspect that this crisis will make leaders more willing to do so.
  9. We preachers may talk more literally than figuratively about people “wearing masks.” We’ve talked that way in the past, but we were talking about hypocrisy and phoniness. Now, some of the masks we speak about will be literal ones.
  10. Some members whose attendance was sporadic prior to COVID-19 will not return. When you’re already out of the habit of attending—and apparently see no need to prioritize it—it doesn’t take much to fall out completely.
  11. We’ll struggle with greeting each other without a handshake or a hug. For most of us, that’s all we’ve ever known . . . and, frankly, it will be interesting to see how long it takes before we’re back to old patterns.
  12. It’s possible—though I pray not—that churches will be less committed to global missions. Travel will likely be less frequent. Visas may be even harder to secure. Some church members may be more hesitant to welcome internationals to our shores. We pastors simply must work hard to keep our churches turned toward the nations in the days to come.

What would you add to this list?   

5 Comments

  • Jonathan L. says:

    It seems as though there could be a grand restructuring of church as we’ve known it!

  • This is a very interesting list – which I guess – is good food for thought and action. One of the things that I hope happens ‘post-Covid’ is that we give some thought to ‘how busy’ we had demanded our congregations to be – and not simply ‘start-up’ everything we stopped. It would seem that now is a good time to evaluate and prioritize what is effective in the ministry of the gospel and what is not…This could be almost like a ‘replant’ without giving outsiders control. Coming out of this ‘program-stoppage’, the American church could become stronger and more effective, even with fewer regular attenders. Just a thought.
    Thanks for your words….

    • mark says:

      Jerry, you summed it up in 4 words “without giving outsiders control.” The distinction between who is in power, who should have some power but can’t be allowed to, and who is being kept out of power by others is the cause of many problems. There are really good people in most congregations who would be humble leaders but who are not allowed to do anything but sit in the pews and donate. Maybe when the crisis is over, these people will find a new place to go where they can fully participate.

  • Patricia says:

    Thank you for the article and an opportunity to think about the future of church. Churches will find doing less maybe better and more effective. We may realize there were something’s done during worship which are no longer needed. Our preaching will have become more succinct. Members will have low tolerance for wasted time. I pray our focus will be turned toward God and how we can effectively minister to His people.

  • Robin G Jordan says:

    In some churches, Chuck, I believe you will observe tension between those who come to realize how unimportant certain traditions and practices are and those who cling even more to these traditions and practices as an important part of the way the church does things–between those who accept the new normal and those who want to return to the old normal.Whether these traditions and practices actually benefit church, enabling it not only to survive but also to thrive, will not be a primary consideration. Right now I am aware of people who shun live-streamed services and online small groups because “it is not the way we do church.” This is not an unusual reaction to what is a major paradigm shift.

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