As a design/build/furnish firm for churches, Aspen Group has been helping pastors and their ministry teams navigate the change that comes with a major church facility project. Now, in this era of COVID-19, church leaders are experiencing unprecedented change. Every pastor and church leader will need support navigating the difficult leadership issues during this season, particularly as you think about reentering or reopening your building, and especially as you relaunch your church into a new future. Every church is facing immediate, short-term questions, but there is also a long-term strategy that has to be built out. For churches to live out their mission and vision, it will require leaders who are self-aware, agile, and relentlessly dependent on God.
This has been a difficult season for every business, organization, and church as we deal with the impacts of both the Coronavirus and the extenuating economic crisis left in its wake. No doubt your church is thinking about next steps and trying to wrestle through what comes next, including the process around reopening your church and how to deal with the financial implications that your church is facing. Getting your church fully online took a lot of work, but now there are 1,001 other decisions that you need to make.
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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.
It may be a while before we can use our church facilities for large-group gatherings. Nonetheless, there are creative ways to maximize all the square footage in a church, even big spaces that you may not currently be able to use for their intended purpose. For example, one way to adapt large indoor and outdoor areas is to create a prayer walk. Even in quarantine, our attention and focus is pulled away from God. Prayer walks provide a place for solitary reflection and reconnection with God, while keeping people at a safe distance from each other.
Churches are faced with myriad decisions about how to make worship facilities safe and sanitary as they decide on the best timing to reopen for in-person worship and ministry programs. How will you manage traffic flow and seating to keep people socially distanced? Do you have enough hand sanitizer stations strategically placed throughout the building? How will you receive the offering and share communion to avoid spreading COVID? While all of these are significant questions, there's another equally critical one to ask: Are your people ready to return to church?
In the past two weeks, Aspen Group hosted webinars for approximately 500 church leaders. When we asked attendees which feels more daunting—leaving the church building because of COVID-19 shutdown orders, or reopening church as COVID restrictions ease, an overwhelming majority said relaunching church is a much more daunting prospect. To help you sort through some of the questions you may have about relaunching church in a COVID-19 culture, Aspen Group will present a virtual workshop—Relaunching Church in a New Reality—on Wednesday, May 20, 3:00-4:15 pm EDT, as part of Barna’s State of the Church webcast.
Churches have experienced economic downturns, natural disasters, and more. But previous to COVID-19 hitting the U.S., there has never been a period in modern history when faith communities have been unable to gather and church operations are so badly disrupted as they are today. This disruption has affected every aspect of church life, including giving toward the general fund—every church’s revenue mainstay.
When the COVID-19 crisis forced houses of worship to close their doors, most churches quickly adapted and pivoted to doing online church. According to a Barna/Gloo’s Church Pulse Weekly poll in mid-April, only 3% of the 875 pastors were not doing church services online. Pastors have had to adjust their preaching style to accommodate moving from a big platform to speaking to their flock on a small screen. Churches have also had to learn how to handle the offering moment virtually.
When COVID-19 hit, pastors had to make the shift, nearly overnight, of leading from a sanctuary platform with a room full of people to preaching and teaching on our small screens. As I’ve watched pastors quickly adapt, I can’t get The Producers, a smash hit Broadway musical that was later adapted as a movie, out of my mind.
Since COVID-19 forced the closure of churches across America, we've been listening and learning with church leaders to understand the myriad implications of doing church in new ways. Here are some of the trusted ministry organizations we’ve been following to navigate the impact of COVID-19 on churches: