Times have changed but many churches haven’t despite the lessons the pandemic offers.

Eileen Campbell- Reed, founder and host of Three Minute Ministry Mentor, compiled what she observed from ministers and congregations and published the #PandemicPastoring Report in August 2022.

Now, she offers churches another opportunity to learn from the pandemic with a study guide.

“We are living in a new era of ministry. We need to talk about it and explore how to live into the new season with creativity, grace and pastoral imagination,” Campbell-Reed says.

Campbell-Reed recently shared 10 notable gleanings from the report with Faith and Leadership. Sadly, many churches were not paying attention, with The Guardian reporting earlier this year that 4,500 churches closed in 2019 and only 3,000 new churches opened their doors.

“Churches are closing at rapid numbers in the U.S., researchers say, as congregations dwindle across the country and a younger generation of Americans abandon Christianity altogether – even as faith continues to dominate American politics,” Adam Gabbatt, a writer and presenter for The Guardian, wrote. Consequently, this wisdom bears repeating:

1. Recognize that things have changed.

The way we do ministry will never be the same, and the models for ministry and how those efforts are supported will continue to change. No business meeting can get around this.

2. Embrace hybrid options.

Along with additional service times, churches must also offer two options: in-person and online. There’s no denying it, and some churches are creating new positions for digital pastors to engage this virtual audience.

3. Listen to women.

Campbell-Reed teaches by the numbers, pointing out that 54 million women have left the workforce. “Churches need to reengage women’s leadership, listen to the reasons they departed, and envision ways to make ministry more sustainable,” she says.

4. Care for loss and grief.

With more than one million Americans dead from the virus, we have been defined by this grief. Churches should continue to create space for those who mourn.

5. Recalibrate habits and rituals.

The pandemic changed the way that we practice our faith but also created new ways to practice what we believe. Allow this expansion, the both/and experience of in-person and online worship opportunities to grow our faith communities.

6. Re-imagine the use of resources.

Church buildings are not being used as much these days. Open your doors and allow your neighbors to use it too.

7. Try new forms of collaboration.

Clergy cannot do it all, but they were expected to during the pandemic. That model of leadership is not sustainable or hospitable. Strike a balance between paid and volunteer support for the church’s ministries.

8. Prioritize mental well-being.

From baptisms to funerals, churches are with us every step of the way. It is important that we make sure that everyone is okay, prioritizing the mental of children and teens, especially in marginalized communities.

9. Confront racial justice.

After the death of George Floyd, companies pledged greater support for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and created a new position — chief diversity officer — to address race.

“Two years later, there is evidence that the wave of activity seen in 2020 has been largely performative in nature, and that little actual progress has been made,” Paolo Guadino, a contributor for Forbes, wrote. The brutal and senseless beating death of Tyre Nichols by five Memphis police officers drove the point home.

10. Craft new future stories.

What’s next? With many churches still in survival mode, there remains the need for the creative imagination. What can the future look like considering what we’ve learned?

This is where the study guide comes in and where the adult Sunday School classes come into the pastor’s study or gather around tables in the fellowship hall. Churches need to give considerable thought to what they will be in the future and for the next generation given the lessons they learned from the pandemic.

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