Church life after lockdown
At the moment it seems all Australia is discussing life after the COVID-19 lockdowns. When will social restrictions be lifted? In what order? What businesses will be allowed to open? What will be the social, emotional, relational and economic repercussions of weeks of physical distancing?
It’s a good discussion for churches to be having as well. What lessons have we learned during the lockdowns? What helpful new practices have we stumbled upon? Should we necessarily go back to the way things were done pre-COVID-19?
Here are some thoughts we feel might be worth considering.
1. Creative love
During the COVID-19 lockdowns, many Christians have been gloriously creative in loving each other and their communities: church Facebook groups for sharing resources; acts of random generosity as gifts get dropped at the door; looking beyond the usual circle of friends to embrace others; leafletting the street to let neighbours know we’re there to help if needed; a conscious effort to move beyond small talk and genuinely enquire how someone is coping.
We don’t want to stop being creative in our love of each other, do we? How tragic would it be if seeing each other again also meant taking each other for granted again?
2. Online Bible groups
Social restrictions have forced many of our interactions to be via video chat. These new formats have been challenging—but also at times surprising. Some Bible study groups have never had so many people in them! Certainly there may be a novelty factor to explain this, however the convenience of online Bible study groups and online one-to-one Bible reading is a wonderful help for the parents of young children, single parents, shift workers or those who live considerable distance from others.
You may be exhausted from your daily slog through Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting, giving you a negative attitude towards online gatherings—it is certainly like that for us! However, maybe there is a place for at least some small groups to stay online even when the lockdowns have ended. Of course, nothing beats physically meeting with others for discussion and prayer around God’s word, but COVID-19 may not be the only season of life when online groups are worth pursuing.
3. No better time to change
Some things to do with church we never want to change, for example prayer, and preaching the Word, in season and out. But what structures, activities, meetings, councils or gatherings can we alter or remove? All the things our churches run should be intentionally kingdom focused, not just historically kingdom focused. The COVID-19 restrictions have given us a unique opportunity to evaluate whether our church activities are kingdom focused.
For example, the men’s breakfast that was started up with great evangelistic zeal over time may have just become what it’s called: a breakfast for men. All men eat breakfast; what’s the point of a church spending time, energy and money running such a thing when it has lost its evangelistic edge? Maybe you were running a great one; if so, keep going post-COVID-19. Perhaps yours has run its course.
Of course, we should keep the good things we were doing before. Keep running that build-up afternoon where women thought through serious theological topics. Keep running that lay preaching training course. But post-COVID-19 life will give us something that many churches only ever wished for: an almost-blank canvas! Let’s not go back and unthinkingly, automatically recreate the old painting with all its blemishes. Let’s paint a new, exciting painting with an even greater gospel-shaped colour scheme.
4. Don’t forget our parishes
The corporate world will likely change a number of their workplace arrangements after COVID-19. Many people will probably stay working from home for part or all of the week since productivity has increased (for some), and companies have invested in the infrastructure. It’s cheaper to run smaller office spaces, and who wouldn’t want to avoid an hour-long train ride each way?
Most face-to-face parish ministry occurs outside normal work hours. However, post-COVID-19 life will likely result in more white-collar workers being in our parishes more of the time—traditionally the harder ones to have contact with. These workers will likely have increased availability during the day, since they have saved that two hours of travel time and can take a flexible lunch break.
There may even be an increase in population growth in our rural cities, like Bathurst or Tamworth, because people do not need to live close to work and may opt to reduce their cost of living and increase their quality of life by moving out of the city.
How will we take advantage of having some people more readily available? How will this change impact our evangelistic strategies? How will this affect our thinking about church planting? How will this influence the ministry opportunities available in the city, country or overseas?
The COVID-19 pandemic is an awful event that no-one would ever wish on the world. However, with every challenge there also comes opportunity. And as hideous as COVID-19 is, there is also opportunity for us to rethink—and if need be, reinvent—how to best live for King Jesus and his kingdom.
So, what lessons have you learned during the lockdowns? What helpful new practices have you stumbled upon? Will you go back to the way things were done before COVID-19?