As this season of COVID-19 has extended, most states here in the U.S. are doing some level of reopening. Most countries in the world are beginning to reopen as well. The question is how does reopening impact churches and their ministries? I have served in ministry now for almost two decades. The majority of time I have served in youth ministry, however more recently I have transitioned into an executive leadership role at my church. I have also had the privilege to engage, coach and help senior pastors as they think about different ways to serve their church and community. As a result, I wanted to write this series of articles on “Ministry Pivots.”
What does it look like to minister in an effective way to the whole church, to include the adults, students, parents and the community at large? What does this mean? How should your ministry pivot as a result of COVID-19? I know there are mixed feelings about this and to be honest, I am not sure anyone has the full answer to every question. As we go through each article please leave comments, thoughts and even examples from your experience so far, so we can all grow and serve the people of God well. In this series of articles, we will look at areas we need to pivot from the view of adult church as well as the youth ministry. Aspects of ministry that require us to pivot:
• Our Teaching/Preaching and Worship Experience.
• Our Connecting to the Congregation.
• Our Budgets (and your youth ministry should still have a budget) .
• Our Planning from now until the end of the year plus 2021.
• Our Communication with All Stakeholders.
• Our Outreach into the Community.
• Our Leadership Team Format and Their Roles.
• Our Self-Care (yes, this is a thing).
Let’s begin with the first one, the pivot in teaching and preaching and our worship experience. What we provide should be an experience for our church and those in the community. Each week we should be looking for and praying for new ways to allow those coming to a live service or engaging online to experience God. There is so much more I could say about this, however I will just list a few pivots and we can engage more in the comments.
• Pivot #1 – Now more than ever, we have to understand that our worship experience begins before the worship start time. We have to look at how people see our church from the website home page, our social media pages and the first few minutes of the service.
At our church, we’re working on engaging—there is that word again—everyone from the moments before worship through a text or app message. Our pastor now does a consistent Saturday night robocall that ends with a prayer; this call goes to every member of the church to prepare their hearts and minds for the worship experience.
• Pivot #2 – Location of the service. for the last few weeks we have begun to move those who serve visibly on camera around to different locations in the church building. We aren’t using the normal Sunday morning main camera shot. I can hear someone saying, “Well, this is all I have.” I would challenge you to see if you or someone close has an iPhone and can purchase a microphone for it. You would be surprised at the quality of video you can create with the right camera phone and ring light. I encourage you to think outside the box and see what it would look like to begin your worship experience from the outside of the church or another room in the church or even somewhere in the community.
If Jimmy Fallon can use a phone to record parts of his late-night show, then we can be creative as well. Using the record button is a true blessing for the church to produce a quality worship experience.
• Pivot #3 – The length of worship experience time needs to also be changed during this season. Our people might have been willing and looking forward to staying in the building longer when we could gather— even if they weren’t looking forward to it, they would stay until the end anyway. Our people now have many choices, and if your experience is too long, or some parts of the experience are too long, they are more likely to leave. Once they leave, unlike when you were in person, you can’t see them get up and walk toward the exit. I honestly don’t know the exact amount of time your service should be, but I am clear that most worship services should be shorter.
• Pivot #4 – Student Ministry should have a strong weekly presence during this season. Even if your student ministry wasn’t meeting weekly during this season, they should be provided with some level of quality teaching or engagement. Our church has asked our leaders from nursery to young adults to provide short but meaningful video lessons to release on the church’s YouTube channel each week. I can hear someone asking why, or saying that it’s too much work.
You need to provide this content as a way to stay connected with the students of your church and their parents. Everyone else in the world is trying to compete for their time and attention, not to mention that they too have questions and struggles regarding this season. Your leaders can simply provide teaching from your Sunday sermon or topics that they receive from the students in the ministry.
If you need more structure, you can use a curriculum or a Bible plan from YouVersion and make it fit for the students. Whatever you do, just know that in this season the students and families of your church also need a quality experience.
• Pivot #5 – Follow-up of guests as well as new members has to also pivot. We have to make sure that we’re intentional about letting our congregation know that we expect to have guests join us online. If this is true, then the congregation needs to be equipped with ways to reach out to friends and family members to invite them to join us online.
We also have to let guests know that we expected them today and we’re prepared for them to join us by having a special way to connect with them during or after service. Many churches use different tools for this from emails to text messages to phone calls. Whatever you use, the point is that there should be some level of communication with guests and then some level of next step for them. Where are you pointing them? What is next for the guest as a path for them to get closer to God and closer to becoming a part of your church family?
As you begin to map out this plan, you need the same kind of follow-up for new members. Our church spent several months working on a process for new members from when they join to their completion of our new members class and getting plugged in to a Life Group or a ministry at the church. Our process is a 12- to 14-week process with two groups of leaders who are assigned and responsible for the new members in order to assist them as they move forward in the process. We will speak a little more about this in the next article as we pivot our process for connection.
OK, so what would you add? What have you done or heard about as it relates to the pivot taking place for this new season of worship experiences?