Short-Term Solutions vs Long-Term Strategies to Relaunch Your Church
In March 2020 when COVID-19 hit the U.S., church leaders faced the unexpected and overwhelming challenge of closing their doors. In a previous blog post, I touched on the three stages of crisis management that disaster response expert and founder of Forge Leadership Consultancy, Simon Barrington, noted:
- Response: fast-moving, high burnout, focus on basic needs. This was primarily the stage the church was in for for the first few weeks after Coronavirus came to the U.S. We wrote about the need for churches to move into Phase 2 of the response stage of the COVID-19 crisis in a previous blog post.
Leaders are preparing to relaunch church in their facilities. We want you to be ready.
- Recovery: slower-moving, higher anxiety related to trauma, grief, lack of confidence. Barrington noted, the recovery phase can actually be more stressful than the response stage. A second wave of trauma and grief often hits us after the initial phase of responding to the crisis. Proverbs 22:3 captures this dilemma: “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Prov. 22:3).
- Reconstruction: Disaster mitigation (planning to ensure this doesn’t happen again), retainage decisions (what we will continue doing after this is over). As the church moves into this stage, we’ll need to pivot again to meet the needs of people in a post-COVID-19 world.
It’s hard to know for sure exactly where churches are in the process of managing the COVID crisis today. Most are probably toggling between recovery and reconstruction. One thing is for sure—leaders are overwhelmed, whether they’re in the response, recovery, or reconstruction phase.
In recent weeks, Aspen has presented several webinars on the topic of “Key Questions to Prepare Churches for a New Season of Ministry.” We asked webinar attendees, “Which feels more daunting—leaving the building abruptly when the COVID-19 crisis first broke out or preparing to relaunch your church as COVID-19 restrictions ease?” More than 90 percent of those nearly 500 people informally polled said relaunching church is much more daunting.
This makes sense. Churches didn’t have a choice whether or not to close their doors. They had to quickly figure out how to stream services and move ministry activities online.
By comparison, leaders say they’re far more overwhelmed as they develop plans to reopen their buildings for in-person gatherings. Faced with myriad details—how to manage traffic flow to keep people socially distanced, where to find hand sanitizer, how to receive the offering and share communion without spreading coronavirus—churches are mired in determining short-term solutions to reopen their doors in ways that are safe, sanitary, and socially distanced.
At the same time, churches need to lift their eyes, look out at the horizon and ask, “What have we learned about our church in this crisis that can help us prepare for a new season of ministry?” This is the driving question that prompted us to develop the resource, “Key Questions to Prepare for a New Season of Ministry.”
Before churches jump into the reconstruction process and focus solely on short-term solutions to reopen their buildings, we want to help you think through long-term strategies to relaunch your church for maximum ministry impact.
“Key Questions for a New Season of Ministry” provides a framework to help churches “deconstruct” their facilities before they embark on the reconstruction process. Advising churches to deconstruct their ministry space before determining how to relaunch church facilities may sound counterintuitive coming from Aspen Group. (We are a design-build-furnish firm, after all!) Let me explain.
As we think about this crisis shifting into a new phase, it’s human to simply long for a return to the regular, familiar patterns of life and connection. Regardless of what we envision as a “next normal,” coronavirus has affected all of us in too many ways to ever go back to what life was before this disease hit. For churches, this means there will not be a return to ministry as usual.
It’s been said, “Never waste a good crisis.” Churches will need to think creatively and with an eye toward innovation if they are to extract every ounce of learning and new insights gained during this season of COVID-19.
Asking curious questions is always the best place to start when reimagining a new future. And having a guide to help you process your questions will help you move from short-term solutions for reopening your church to long-term facility strategies for relaunching your church for a new season of ministry.
Aspen's team of architects, construction experts, interior design professionals, project developers, and support staff have the tools and training to help guide you through this process. At the same time, we can help you develop and execute a strategy to relaunch your church to create space for ministry impact for the long-term.
Navigating What's Next
In the days, weeks, and probably months ahead, your church will have a lot of difficult decisions to make in the midst of competing demands and conflicting opinions. To vastly over-simplify the Bible, the Old Testament teaches rules (the letter of the law), while the New Testament emphasizes principles (the spirit behind the law). In so doing, we are brought to a new and better place, a place of life. A place of heart, and of love.
The Apostle Paul put it this way: “Our sufficiency is from God, who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:5-6).
This prompts us to operate from a posture of grace and respect for every church as you move into a new season of ministry with so many unknowns. Aspen stands ready to wrestle hard questions, explore options, and help you navigate this incredible era of disruption.
We’re ready to help you evaluate your church facilities and create design solutions to adapt your ministry space according to your local government’s COVID requirements and, most importantly, in a spirit of caring for one another.