Church leaders have a unique responsibility to become students of the times. Not only do they need to know what the Bible says about leadership, but they should also contemplate what history has to teach them. There’s no question that 2020 was a trying time for everyone, but what does it have to teach church leaders specifically?
Here are four lessons we need to recognize.
1. The church is resilient
The fact that the church is hardy shouldn’t come as a surprise. Throughout history, it has endured many attempts to stop or silence it. But 2020 was an encouraging reminder that the church adapts and moves forward when things get complicated.
When churches couldn’t meet in person due to COVID, they found ways to gather online, stream services, and care for one another. It’s hard to imagine what the year would have looked like without the Internet, and thankfully we don’t have to. The church took advantage of the available technology and brought their worship online.
Tip: More on this in the free ebook, Churches in the Wilderness: Navigating COVID-19 and the New Normal
2. No one can do it all
Even though they weren’t meeting in the way that they’d grown accustomed to, many pastors (especially those in 100–300-member churches) discovered that they were working more during 2020, not less. On top of caring for church members through an anxiety-inducing crisis, they were troubleshooting all new issues. Little things like improving the bandwidth in the sanctuary to enhance livestreams became attention-consuming problems.
On a conceptual level, we’ve always known that pastors can’t do it all, but 2020 helped drive the point home. The health of the church is reliant on everyone pulling in the same yoke together. It was a good reminder that churches need to identify and train up leaders.
3. People are being discipled somewhere
In the Great Commission, Jesus gave the church their marching orders. They were to make disciples of all nations. This is about so much more than making converts. It’s about teaching people to become faithful followers of Jesus.
Many churches found that the cultural faultlines dividing the country ran directly through their churches. It helped hammer home the fact that there was a battle happening for the hearts of church members. The people in their congregations were being discipled by media outlets and online celebrities—and it was getting more difficult for churches to compete with 24-hour access to all of these voices.
Churches were reminded of their incredible responsibility to show people what it means to listen to Jesus’ voice and follow Him. 2020 also challenged them to find new ways to significantly impact their congregations’ lives outside of a weekly service.
4. We can’t afford to ignore digital ministry
Very few churches were entirely ignoring digital ministry at the start of 2020. You’d have to hunt to find churches still using overhead projectors. Most had websites, used social media, and offered digital giving solutions. But that didn’t mean they were ready to take their entire church online.
But those who had more fully integrated digital tools in their ministry had a leg up on other churches. They were already recording and posting services online, having the occasional remote meetings, and everyone was accustomed to online giving. Other churches had to sprint to familiarize themselves with all kinds of new apps and tools. The ones that were already curious about using technology to extend their reach were just better prepared.
It was a good reminder that we couldn’t entirely ignore the ways that the culture uses technology. Not only do we need to meet them in the spaces they’re at, but we also need to be prepared for contingencies.
All times are trying times
There are a lot of jokes and memes about how difficult 2020 was—and it was hard. But every season comes with distinct challenges. The best we can do is stay pliable and responsive, communicate with one another the best we can, and learn the lessons the times would teach us.
If you’re interested in learning more, download a free copy of our ebook Churches in the Wilderness: Navigating COVID-19 and the New Normal. You’ll find helpful tips for positioning your church for the long-term effects of COVID.
And if you’d like to learn more about the digital tools available for churches, check out all the useful tools and services available from Sharefaith now.