“A constraint should be regarded as a stimulus for positive change — we can choose to use it as an impetus to explore something new and arrive at a breakthrough.”Adam Morgan and Mark Barden in A Beautiful Constraint
If you believe that “God causes all things to work together for good,”1 then you must be wondering what God is going to do to redeem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Whatever our thoughts, stances, and opinions are in relation to the pandemic, one thing is clear: it has disrupted all of us. Disruptions are jarring because they are unplanned and usually happen very quickly. Typically, when disruptions affect us, our reaction is to think of them as problems. But their positive side—and yes, they have one—is that they force our attention on to a new reality and create an urgency to do something so that we survive the disruption with good prospects for the future.
Now is an opportune time to reimagine ministry to meet the challenges of new conditions and take advantage of the opportunities they provide. I believe those opportunities are a gift from God to the church. While the pandemic is a terrible scourge, it is not beyond God’s power to redeem it by bringing some good out of it. We need to open this gift of opportunity and use it! How will you participate with God in drawing out that good to bless others? CCCC members can discuss this post in The Green.
Surviving a disruption requires a mindset that goes beyond incremental changes to how we think about and do our work. There may be some very helpful tweaks to make, and those should be done, but more importantly when in a disruption, we need bold, creative ideas for completely new initiatives that make the most of the possibilities inherent in the disruption.
Some questions to start a discussion with your team about innovation in your ministry include:
- What new needs have been created by the disruption?
- What other ways to pursue our mission does the disruption make possible that weren’t possible or desirable before?
- How can we make sure we are open to the expansiveness of God’s possibility and will for our ministry in this moment and going forward?
Whether we like it or not, both we and our society will be changed by the disruption of COVID-19. But there is good news in that if we take the initiative and act proactively we can achieve greater mission success because of those changes.
The choices we make might even bring about changes that are much needed and overdue.
Without minimizing the terribleness of the pandemic, this time of disruption holds an opportunity for churches and Christian ministries to further develop and expand how they work on their missions.
Making the Most of the Opportunity
The current disruption is already benefiting the church in that it has:
- Highlighted more than ever the difference between the church and its buildings,
- Forced us to find new ways to be the church without relying on buildings or large gathered groups, and
- Upset regular routines and practices, making people more open to change than usual.
What we learn from our experience during the pandemic can continue to be used when large gatherings resume. Our new skills and practices can go forward and augment (and in some cases replace) the traditional ways of doing ministry.
To make the most of the disruption, churches and ministries need to think innovatively about their activities with respect to two time frames: what they can do during the pandemic and what they need to do to prepare for ministry after the pandemic.
During the pandemic
“Saddleback has never been closed during these past eleven weeks,” Warren says. “On the contrary, we’ve been doing more in our communities than ever before. Our buildings have been closed, but the church is not a building. We are a living, breathing body …we are a people, not a place.”Rick Warren
A number of churches and ministry leaders have shared how they are creatively responding to the pandemic. Follow the links to be inspired by their stories and then see what ideas your own team can come up with.
- The quote above comes from Rick Warren’s interview about how Saddleback Church is making the most of the pandemic not only to serve but also to evangelize through its members rather than its programs.
- This church transformed an existing program that was no longer needed as it was into a high value program meeting specific pandemic-related community needs.
- Some churches are thinking about the new possibilities of being a church without walls.
- Fresh Expressions helps churches build new forms of churches alongside themselves to attract non-church people. Their post discusses how distributed leadership makes possible a distributed church that can minister during the pandemic. It also covers integrating your church into the digital era and listening, loving, and serving your neighbourhood.
- Here are a number of suggestions for engaging and re-engaging people with your church while reaching out to new people with new programs.
- Christ’s Church of the Valley in Phoenix, AZ developed a new mental health program based on text messaging, their website, and telephone and is providing financial assistance to individuals for their first ten counselling sessions.
- A ministry leader offers ten creative ideas to continue effective ministry.
- Here’s a church that turned to the ministries it supports to find ways to help them with their missions. The church is also supporting its local Social Services office.
But don’t just look at what other churches or ministries are doing. For real game-changing ideas, look to see what other industry sectors are doing. We are all in the same boat, having to innovate during the pandemic. Secular charities could have great ideas and so could the retail, manufacturing, hi-tech and other sectors of our economy. Hospitals, for example, improved their patient management system by examining automotive factories. Look for transferable ideas from sectors that are very different from our own.
For guidance and ideas in developing creativity, please see my post on imagination.
Preparing for after the pandemic
During this time of disruption, churches and all other ministries should re-explore their missions and take a deep dive with a fresh perspective into what the words of their mission mean, what success of their mission looks like, and how their mission can be fulfilled. A process for how to do this will be the topic of my next post.
If the church makes the most of God’s gift of opportunity in disruption, it will emerge from this pandemic fresh, reinvigorated, and highly relevant to whatever the new normal turns out to be.
- Romans 8:28 ↩