6 Traits I See in Churches that Are Thriving in the Midst of COVID-19
In my role at Aspen, I am typically the first person to field calls and emails from churches that want to discuss a potential building project or facility need. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, my phone stopped ringing, and I received few emails from leaders asking to help solve their ministry space challenges. With churches forced to leave their buildings, everyone was reacting to the crisis and making fast pivots to swiftly adapt the way they were doing church.
Within a few of weeks, however, I started to receive calls and emails from churches again. Many have reached out in search of short-term solutions for their most pressing facility needs, especially as coronavirus restrictions ease and they prepare to return to their buildings. But surprisingly, at least in light of COVID-19's impact, some are also talking about more significant efforts—visions and plans they were working toward before the pandemic.
Our team has been hard at work creating design solutions to help churches adapt ministry space to accommodate for new requirements for social distancing and healthy, in-person gatherings. There are a multitude of ways that churches can adapt existing square footage in creative, new ways when they reopen for in-person gatherings.
Join us on 6/17 for a free webinar on "Key Leadership Questions for a New Season of Ministry," featuring Brian Dodd.
Other churches, however, have contacted us for help on developing a long-term relaunch church strategy. These churches had been experiencing growth and momentum before coronavirus hit, and the crisis hasn’t slowed them down. They’re still growing and thriving in spite of a worldwide pandemic. They’re relaunching their churches with an eye toward creating a long-term facility strategy to accelerate their ministry impact.
Granted, these contacts are a smaller subset of all of the churches we’ve responded to in recent weeks. Nonetheless, as I’ve engaged with leaders from these churches that are ready to move forward with a building project, I’ve started to notice some commonalities between these churches.
Though my observations are based on anecdotal observations and are not data-driven or scientifically based on a large sample size, there are six qualities I’ve observed in my conversations with churches that are thriving in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis:
Six Qualities I See in Thriving Churches
1. Trust in leadership
Churches that are experiencing growth and momentum, even as the pandemic has exerted extreme pressure on many churches, all have expressed their trust in the leadership of their church, and they are united as a team in the mission and vision of the church, which was in place prior to the pandemic.
2. Excitement about the future
Nearly every church I’ve spoken to that is thriving in the midst of COVID-19 says they were excited about the future of their church prior to closing their doors during the pandemic. Hope and excitement for the future seems to beget more hope and excitement for what’s next. Excitement stems from various things, like new leadership, upcoming facility project, a relatively new relaunch, plans for new multisite locations, or simply celebrating wins and casting vision.
3. Clear communication
Communication looks different for every church, but what is consistent among the thriving churches I’ve engaged with is that they’ve been an active voice in people’s lives before, during, and since COVID-19 hit. Clear communication keeps congregations engaged and active in the church’s ministry, and this fosters momentum.
Every congregation had to go digital when COVID-19 forced churches to leave their buildings. Granted, churches with a strong online presence before coronavirus hit had a shorter learning curve than churches that were forced to go online overnight. Surprisingly, though, not all of the churches I’ve talked to that are thriving now were skilled or practiced in doing online church before the pandemic hit. In fact, many of them admit that they’ve had clunky online productions. If quality tech wasn’t the focus or a core value of the church prior to COVID-19, their success in engaging with people wasn’t tied to providing a quality experience.
Quality production has not been the key to success for thriving churches. Authentic joy and excitement to live out the church’s mission and vision on a new platform is.
5. Community-focused and in-tune with community needs
Churches that have thrived during the COVID-19 crisis knew their community before the crisis hit, or they quickly prioritized community needs as the church’s focus during the crisis. Many had community partnerships prior to COVID-19.
In addition to the pandemic, racial injustice issues have emerged. Thriving churches say they’ve leaned into the issue of racial tension and addressed it with clarity and purpose. Both of these crises underscore the need for churches to be in and for the community in order to remain relevant.
6. Ability to mobilize the church with effective discipleship and next steps for faith formation at multiple levels and in new ways
The thriving churches I've talked to have been able to inspire people to actively grow in their faith in new ways. These churches have continued to provide opportunities for people to progress in their spiritual formation using all means available. The tools they’ve used to disciple people may have changed, but these churches thriving through the crisis have stayed true to their mission to help people grow in their faith.
Small groups, resources to lead families spiritually, resources to engage neighbors, and tools, resources and support for those wrestling with anxiety or depression have been key ways that churches have equipped people throughout the COVID season.
About Josh Gregoire
Josh Gregoire joined Aspen Group in 2004. Over the years he has played a role in design, construction, IT, marketing, project development, and business development. Since 2014, Josh has served as Church Relations Coordinator. He is often the first point of contact for churches who are considering a church facility renovation or new building project. His experiences at Aspen and in pastoral ministry have prepared him to come alongside church leaders and help them navigate the earliest conversations and stages of a facility project. Josh also serves as the Discipleship Pastor in his home church, providing vision and leadership for ministries such as Small Groups, First Impressions (hospitality), and Next Steps. He has also served as his denomination’s District Sunday School and Discipleship Ministry Chair, and he continues to provide coaching and training to leaders and volunteers in these areas as needed. He and his wife Missy are raising two kids.