We have a unique vantage point at Chemistry Staffing. We have a rare opportunity (and privilege) to talk with many church leaders every week.
Most of our conversations are around how we can assist with staffing issues, hiring, transitioning staff, and succession planning.
But during the last ten weeks, we've also enjoyed hearing stories from church leaders about what they are learning during this pandemic.
Every church leader is different. And every church is unique. But as we talk to more and more people, we're starting to get a good view of how things may be different for churches on the other side of COVID-19.
Here's what we're learning. Maybe this will help you identify key learnings and trends for your church during this season.
CHANGE #1: There Will Be Different Ways of Leading Staff
Eleven weeks ago, nearly all staff members were local and onsite.
Most shared office space.
But all of that changed overnight.
All of a sudden, staff members were not able to share a conventional office. Everyone quickly found themselves in a new reality of being a 'distributed' worker.
Initially, as we talked with church leaders, the question was, 'how in the world is this going to work'? ‘How can I lead my staff remotely?’
The reality of the last weeks is that we've eliminated many of the pain points we thought existed in this 'remote staff management' trial into which we were all thrust.
Many have gone from 'how will this work' to 'this actually works pretty good, at least short-term.'
The result, we think, will be more acceptance of a distributed church staff model (at least partially). The church office and office hours will not go away, but in many cases, the importance of having everyone in the same office the majority of the time will diminish.
As those overseeing staff see the benefits of this flexibility, we will continue to lead our team differently post-COVID.
CHANGE #2: Different Staff Skill Sets Will Be Required
We've already talked about how this crisis has caused many church staff members to move from a 'platform' to 'pastoral' framework.
The thing is: EVERYONE needed to pivot in some way, from the Senior Pastor on down.
Some have done better than others.
Many staff members have proven themselves indispensable during this time. Others are still struggling to find their place.
Great youth pastors suddenly needed not just to gather a group of teens on a Wednesday night (platform); they needed to deliver content and programming virtually on more of a personal basis (pastoral).
The same with nearly every roll on your staff.
As we move forward, the ability to be agile will be essential. Skills in technology will be a desired layer over and above standard ministry skills. Those that can connect personally and pastorally will be in high demand. The skill sets that we've discovered are valuable during this pivot will become the norm for new hires (and current job security) moving forward.
CHANGE #3: Different Delivery Methods Will Be Necessary
Before COVID-19, many churches had absolutely no online strategy.
And many of is that did, honestly, didn't put much thought into what we were delivering.
Within 72 hours in March, every church needed to figure out some kind of digital delivery system.
For many of the churches we're talking to, this necessity to innovate quickly has provided a ton of learning in a very short period of time.
The move from onsite to online was nearly instantaneous for most.
The move back to in-person will be a much harder transition.
For at least a period of time, all churches will need to embrace a BOTH/AND approach. That means both online and in-person services will be a must-have offering.
Smart leaders are trying to figure out how to re-start in-person services AND plot out what their long-term online strategy will be.
Online is not going away any time soon.
One of the significant learnings during this time has been that streaming your big room experience probably doesn't translate all that well into a great online experience.
Many churches will be looking at ways to engage and disciple more people online.
Online presence and digital engagement will not be going away. Many churches will begin to beef up volunteer and paid staff in this area.
CHANGE #4: Different Priorities
During this time, we've had to rethink our mission.
The good news: nothing has changed (the mission is still the same.)
The bad news: EVERYTHING has changed (how, what, where, what, when, who) have ALL changed.
Priorities need to shift to move forward the mission, just in a different way.
Many churches are repositioning themselves as primarily an 'online church with physical locations.'
The new reality is: EVERY church is now multisite.
While this approach may not be for every church, churches that make this mission shift will find it transformational.
Regardless of how far your church goes down the digital path in the future, different priorities will be needed to carry on the mission of your unique local church.
CHANGE #5: Different Metrics
I heard a group of pastors this week say that they think it may be years before onsite attendance matches what it was earlier this year.
Even when every church in America is back open for in-person services, many are speculating that it will be some time before we see our worship centers packed with people.
So what will we count? If 'butts in seats' is down, it's probably time to find a new metric. No one likes to read charts with arrows going down.
Here's a more profound question: Will the goal ALWAYS be an eventual butt in a physical seat on our physical campus?
What gets measured gets done.
Again, this is transformational stuff.
We hear many pastors talking about 'engagement' as a new metric, DIGITAL engagement in particular. Great leaders are trying to figure out what digital engagement looks like to them. How will we know that people are engaging online? Volunteering? Serving? Growing in their walk with Christ?
What will your church measure for the remainder of 2020? If you go back to measuring ‘butts in seats’, you will be very disappointed.
CHANGE #6: Different Staff Positions
We've already mentioned that many churches will be hiring differently in the future.
Many churches will look for more generalists, particularly those that can pull off relational, pastoral ministry.
Technology and Communication roles will also be prioritized. (We're already seeing many churches planning to hire in these areas). There will be a distinct shift to roles that can/will support the online component of your ministry moving forward. Some of the roles we think will be trending in the next year are:
- Online Campus Pastor
- Communications Director
- Service Production/Video Producer
- Digital Engagement Director
CHANGE #7: Different Staff Arrangement
We think virtual is here to stay and that virtual church staff hires will be more commonplace and accepted than ever before.
COVID has proven that distributed staff can work.
The need to do more and different types of ministry with the same or tighter budget will cause churches to search out alternatives to traditional full-time or part-time onsite staff.
Hiring a virtual staff member will be, for some roles, more cost-effective. It will allow churches to employ passionate, capable, experienced professionals who serve as equippers rather than doers. Part-time virtual staff members will not require office space, health insurance, or additional benefits that onsite staff often require.
We think the shift will mean that ultimately, more and more ministry will be led on the ground in local churches by essential lay volunteers rather than paid staff members. We think this is a great thing in many cases.
A 'distributed' staff member will, in many cases, be able to provide expertise, strategy, and vision, lead volunteer training and coaching, and ultimately provide leadership oversight to empower your key volunteers to build strong local teams.
So there you go. Seven changes that we think your church will need to navigate through during the next few months.
What do you think? Drop me an email with your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to hear from you.
And if you'd like to talk through any of these changes, or need some help thinking through what all this means, particularly for your staff during this next season, then I'd love to grab 30 minutes with you on a video call to hear your story and see if I can help!
We're on your side during this time! Let us know how we can help.