Many areas are seeing a COVID spike a second time, some even greater than the first spike. We have been communicating with hundreds of pastors each week who contact Church Answers with questions and information.
When COVID became known and pervasive, most churches immediately ceased all in-person activities, including worship services. The most common responses included establishing digital worship services and digital small groups. This time, the responses are different. Of course, we understand that every church and every context are different. Still, we see five common themes among most of the churches in their latest responses to the pandemic.
- Continuing in-person services with less participation. This time, most churches have decided to keep the in-person services open. But the leaders have encouraged those with health challenges, the elderly, and those with any exposure to COVID patients and victims to remain at home and watch the services virtually. Obviously, worship attendance has been hit again by this move.
- Renewing emphasis on digital services. Churches in general have gone through three phases with digital services. First, they moved to digital with enthusiasm and effort. Second, as they returned to in-person services, many churches gave much less attention to streaming services. Now, in the third phase, churches are renewing their emphasis on digital services. More church leaders are realizing they should not have decreased their emphasis on digital services at all.
- Making adjustments to the budget. Many church leaders were pleasantly surprised to see giving stay strong in the early stages of the pandemic. There was a sense that church members were rallying to a cause. The stimulus funding by the federal government helped as well. Then, the giving began to wane in many churches. We anticipate giving to be down around 20% in 2021, even with the second round, and possibly a third round, of stimulus funding.
- Many small groups returning to digital. Some churches have moved all of their small groups back to digital. Other churches have a mix of in-person and digital small groups. The churches that have maintained their emphasis on small groups, whether digital or in-person, are typically among the healthiest congregations today.
- More staff transitioning to co-vocational. There is a clear and definitive trend of vocational ministry staff moving to a co-vocational role. Some of the moves are by financial necessity. These staff are typically called bi-vocational. They have two paying jobs, one at the church and another in secular ministry. The church does not have the resources to pay the person full-time. More are moving into co-vocational roles by choice, either coming from secular vocations or going to secular vocations. The “tentmaker” ministry may be among the biggest changes in church life in 2021.
We will keep you updated as we get feedback from the church leaders we serve at Church Answers. And we would love to hear from you about the steps you are currently taking at your church.
Thank you for serving. Let us hear how you are doing.
Originally published at Church Answers
Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.
Rainer has written over 30 books, including three that reached number one bestseller: I Am a Church Member, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, and Simple Church. His new book, The Post-Quarantine Church: Six Urgent Challenges and Opportunities That Will Determine the Future of Your Congregation, is available now.