Many of us are thinking, “How can we survive the pandemic?” and, “How can we help the people we call United Methodists?” At the same time, many of us are thinking, “What’s ahead after the pandemic?”
We have much to “grieve.” Think with me about all the things we as Christians are missing. Baptisms, Communion, Fellowship Dinners, Cantatas and other special music and hugs in the Narthex just to name a few. We ache because we can’t talk to our friends and catch up with our neighbors. We can’t even say goodbye to our loved ones when they die. In the midst of our “grieving,” we need to realize that coming out of this pandemic, things will be different and we need to be prepared.
We must think about the future of the church. What will the church look like when it’s okay to gather at church and hear a sermon together? We will have to continue with Facebook and all the other ways of “Live Streaming.” People will be used to watching the morning worship service sitting in their living room in their pajamas. We will need to continue virtual Bible Studies, using Zoom where we can stay at home and still be part of the group. Pastors will need to continue to be “entrepreneurs”. We will need to continue to offer new things in new ways. The future of the church will be new and innovative. We will need to continue to persuade our members to give electronically. This will offer a whole new day in our giving. Giving when you attend needs to be something of the past. Giving every Sunday is the right direction.
Getting ready to move back into our churches may be a brief time. When we can gather again in our churches, we may be tempted to reach back into what we called normal. Some of us will say finally we can get back into what we know how to do and this may not be the correct answer. There will be more choices than we had before once we get back into the our churches. Now we know how to worship in a different way. In some cases, we have learned how to be an entrepreneur and how to do things in a different way. We have learned how to livestream and this has offered us more choices. We have learned how to do Children’s Ministry on Zoom and this has offered more choices. We have learned how to take Bible Studies and Devotions to our people directly to their homes and this has offered us more choices. The churches that will come out of this pandemic successfully are those who know the “purpose” of the church. Our temptation will be to have numerous activities to prove we’re still in the business when we need to ask God what He has for us now that we have survived. We should never try to convince our members that we have all the answers because we don’t, and it takes all of us to plan for the future.
I talked to a friend about his church and asked what he had learned. He said his church had learned to do mission in a new way. The church needs a new way to define, “Who is My Neighbor?” We need to stop spending so much time, energy, and money to get like-minded people in one place to worship on Sunday morning.
What’s Ahead of Us After the Pandemic? We will discover this together. The real issue is: “What Does God Want Us to Discover – after the pandemic?”
Author: Tommy Herndon