Everything has changed.
Everything is different.
The COVID-19 virus has disrupted everyone's life. Schools and businesses have closed, and churches cannot assemble for the foreseeable future.
In many states, churches have had to close their offices to comply with state-mandated social distancing and 'stay at home' orders.
For church staff, it means that we cannot conduct ministry as usual. We can't meet in person on the weekends. We can't interact in the same room with our volunteers. We might not even be able to meet with our fellow staff members for work, fellowship, or collaboration.
The status-quo we knew three or four weeks ago is gone.
And we all have a decision we need to make every day.
It's a tough decision, but one that will ultimately determine how you (and your church) make it through this crisis. It may also make a difference in your future.
Here's the decision you need to make today (and tomorrow and the day after):
Am I going to be 'all in'? Or am I going to 'zone out'?
Here's what I'm seeing. For many church staff members and leaders, it seems to be one or the other. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground.
As much as things have DRASTICALLY changed, my guess is that you have either gone all in or zoned out. One or the other.
And my guess is that your church is either 'all in' or 'zoned out' as well.
The way you respond today will very much affect your future tomorrow.
Let's talk about your church first.
I did an informal survey of what is happening in my small town in Ohio this week. My town has a population of 8,000 people (the country population is around 35,000 people). There are 20 churches in my town. I visited each church's webpage to see how they were dealing with the crisis so far and what they were planning for this weekend. The results were alarming, at least to me:
- 36% of churches will have a live-streaming opening this Sunday
- 11% of churches will post a sermon only that is on-demand throughout the week
- 53% are doing NOTHING.
More than half, it appears, have zoned out.
Some have just canceled services until this whole thing blows over, and they can meet again.
Others didn't even have a mention of anything different on their church website.
(And some didn't HAVE a website).
Maybe they are doing some internal communication, but the public statement is 'we've shut down'.
We're hearing a lot this week about what happens to our economy if everything stays closed for a more extended period of time. My question for you is: what happens to your church?
Church leaders, let me be frank: now is the time to lean in... ALL IN.
NOW is the time to connect. Online. With services. With small groups. With phone calls. Whatever you can do to 'lean in', do it!
(I had a refreshing call with the leaders of a church of about 800 people this past week. They made 472 phone calls to EVERY family in their church to touch base, see how they were doing, and offer support and prayer. THAT is leaning 'all in.')
If you don't lean in now, in a big way, it will be hard for your church when this crisis is over. Don't expect everyone to return all at once.
This crisis may turn what were your sporadic attendees into actual NON-attendees when this thing is actually over.
Particularly if you don't connect and shepherd them during this pivotal time.
OK... leaning in is a massive deal for your church, but it's also an even bigger deal for you personally as a leader.
Can we talk?
I see a lot of church leaders choosing to zone out right now.
Don't do it.
It's a hard time. I get it. But three weeks in, you should have a game plan that includes more than playing Fortnite or binge-watching Breaking Bad.
How can I replicate my job description virtually? How can I meet with my youth group? How can I minister to my worship team? How can I include my children's ministry volunteers? What will replace the summer camp or the marriage conference that was just canceled? How will I encourage people to engage in small groups now that they can't meet? How are we encouraging our folks to give of their time, spiritual gifts, (and yes) money online just like they were doing a month ago?
If you're not actively pursuing answers to these questions right now, you're zoning out.
And here's the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about:
Those that zone out now may not have a job tomorrow.
Churches that zone out may not survive. Literally.
And staff members that zone out will be the first ones cut when the budget suffers and layoffs need to happen.
So how you lead now can likely determine the future of your church and your family.
You have a decision to make. Today and every day for the near future. Will I lean in or zone out?
It's a decision only you can make.
PS - I'd love to hear what you’re thinking. Where are you struggling? What are you learning? How can I help? Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts.