Change is difficult. Like cement, the older we get the more set in our ways we become. Serving as a pastor in a congregation that has a substantial older demographic comes with its challenges. Most of my congregants are over twice my age and some three times my age. They have seen the world change and rapidly at that.
From world wars, putting a man on the moon, disco (and who wants to remember that), fears of nuclear holocaust, microwaves, television, and the internet, the world looks different from what they remember—and so does the church! For some, their church is the last portion of their lives that resembles their past. And as such, a pitfall that young pastors such as myself can fall into is changing their church without sensitivity or care. In Tom Rainer’s book, Who Moved My Pulpit?, he writes:
“Your role as a change leader has three major components. First, you have to lead the congregation to face reality. Then you have to communicate that reality and the steps needed to move forward again and again. Finally, you must communicate with a sense of urgency.”
The above is a wise way to handle change. However, change for the sake of change should not be admired. We change as a church not because we want to, but because we have to. We have to stay rooted in our urgency to share the gospel, engage a lost generation, and being willing to live in the culture we are called to reach. However, the rulebook has been thrown out the window due to the Coronavirus—but this can be good. Unlike any time before us, churches have had to shift with little time to discuss how this ought to happen. As hard as its been for many of us, there is a silver lining. Now more than ever people are willing to change. They see the need to adjust under these unique circumstances.
Our church went from having a dated website with little to no web presence or social media offerings to a refreshed site with fantastic features, podcast on every mobile platform, online streaming, call-in prayer line, Zoom bible studies, a plethora of social offerings, and we are looking into new ways to not only grow people’s faith but minister to our community. In the short weeks since we’ve had to transition, we’ve seen our web presence skyrocket. From our first Sunday to our last, our viewership has over doubled. And the greatest part of all of this was receiving a call from an older congregant who cannot attend our normal Sunday gatherings because of mobility issues thank me because she feels a part of the church again through our stream.
If we don’t change our churches, we will become like a pond where the water is stagnant and unhealthy to drink, but I believe God wants to move the church from being a stagnant pond to a flowing river. Use this opportunity to remind people of the mission of the church during a time that they are most willing to accept change. And while I am certain a new found appreciation for meeting in person will be gained, there are new ways of doing church that will now be appreciated.