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Covid-19 and the Church

Learnings for Church Leaders from the Coronavirus Pandemic.

The Covid-19 virus has turned the world upside down. With hour-by-hour changes, we’re quickly finding ourselves struggling with social-distancing, sequestering, financial fallout, overnight out-of-work parishioners, the fast-cascading hardships on the poor and marginalized, not to mention the global anxieties and uncertainties connected with the virus itself.

It’s also forcing quick decision-making for church leaders: last weekend saw most churches closed down in my city…and there’s no end in sight as officials keep reducing gathering sizes, currently federally-recommended at 10. Whole countries are quarantining and closing borders.

So I’m assuming that many of you are closed—and closed for the unforeseeable future. And I’m also going to assume that you are praying: for government leaders, for an outpouring of healing, for divine intervention in arresting the virus, for families that are dealing with severe financial hardships, for your own church and your own leadership decisions.

We’ll get through this. But with any crisis, there are lessons to be learned. To me, there is a big, practical one for churches: the need for robust technological and non-technological systems. Let me explain.

Technology simply gives you instant access to communicate to your people. The letters in the New Testament addressed the current needs of various churches as quickly as their technology would allow them. The speed at which we can communicate to our people now is blindingly realtime. So please communicate. Offer resources and critical instruction for help. Bring the assurances of the Christ who said to an oppressed people, “Don’t worry…your Father knows your needs before you even ask.” Pastor your people with honest and vulnerable words soaked in grace and truth.

We are reminded again of the need for well thought-out proactive systems. Decades ago, churches had printed “picture directories” and phone prayer-chains designed to remind people to connect with one another via the technology of the day. How are you onboarding people into your communication systems? Beyond a website, are you sending out communiques that address real concerns and questions? What percentage of your weekend attendees have given you email and text info—and have you previously communicated the value of that? Are you now streaming on the weekends—even if it’s just you communicating through Facebook Live with a smartphone? How robust is your online/texting giving?—has that been encouraged over the years?

On the non-technological side, we now clearly see the value of super-small groups of people already connecting. When gatherings of less than 10 are encouraged (or perhaps soon mandated), how effective have you been in moving people from rows to circles? Did you encourage decentralization?—in other words, was the whole of your community dependent on a singular building? What was your system for assimilating people into smaller communities for the sake of relationship and care, not to mention discipleship?

None of this is condemnatory. The current crisis simply offers us do-overs in how we handle the “people business” that God has given us. We’ll be a little smarter and empathetic in how we communicate, what we communicate, and how we connect our people in real ways beyond the weekend services.

Be encouraged: we’ll make it. But let’s get wiser in the future.



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