As I’ve talked with church leaders over the last month, I’ve listened to hear what they’ve learned over the past year of COVID. Here are some of their answers:
- We had taken congregational fellowship for granted. That’s because we never dreamed we in North America would not be gathering as a local body. Persecuted and threatened believers around the world, on the other hand, know better. They’re deeply grateful to gather when they can.
- Our world is a small world. It’s geographically big, but a single virus has shown us how connected we are among the nations. That reality ought to deepen our burden for missions and lead to more prayer for missionaries.
- We can still do church well while doing fewer activities. In some ways, COVID has forced us to make hard calls about some church programs – calls we probably should have made anyway. I pray we don’t return to cluttered activity once this situation is past.
- Seeing faces matters when we preach. That’s not to say we can’t preach to people via a camera, but it is to recognize that much of our preaching is dependent on seeing faces (the whole face, without a mask) while we preach. Perhaps this lesson will push us preachers to give more attention to maintaining good eye contact.
- There’s something special about a congregation singing together. I’ve experienced that truth overseas where outnumbered believers just rejoice to sing together at all. Now, I’ve experienced a similar sense in my church in North Carolina. The praises of God’s people are sweet.
- Church leaders can be creative when we need to be. Sometimes we get stuck in routines and ruts, and nothing short of a pandemic can force us out of the norm. What this crisis has shown us, though, is that the combined wisdom of God’s people can be resourceful and innovative.
- We were often more disconnected from our community than we thought. In some cases, congregations have been more intentional about helping their community during COVID than they had been in years. If nothing else, this crisis moved community needs to the front burner for many churches.
- Many parents depend on childcare and children’s church during Sunday activities. In many cases, it’s been the young couples with children who aren’t returning to worship until all childcare is available. I realize some readers may see that as problematic, but I’m simply reporting what we’ve learned.
- We must do better pastoral care of our senior adults. Some congregations do this really well, but others only respond reactively to needs among our seniors. I’ve seen many churches, though, make a much stronger effort to shepherd their senior adults during COVID. I trust that trend will continue.
- We have to think through what our approach will be should we face any similar situation—whether it’s a pandemic, political opposition, and any other obstacle to worship. We had to respond overnight one year ago, but we need to have learned from the past year. My guess is we’ll face something else in the years to come.
What would you add to this list?