I know it is early in this unprecedented season that we are in, but I reckon that in terms of church health and consultancy we will see the following things happening over the next six months:
1 Churches that haven't been able to adapt to the new milieu will close or merge (and they will be asking for consultancy help with this). This will include churches where the vast majority of people are elderly and not able to make the transition to online services &/or not able to give online. It will also include churches that haven't been active in their local community, and therefore do not have offline relationships of sufficient depth to transition them to online (our small church has 4 people doing Christianity Explained over Zoom at present). Many of these churches have struggled with their viability for years, and this crisis is merely bringing that to a head.
2 Churches that may have had successful missional pathways (e.g. https://pathways4mission.com/ ) inward will have the challenge of replicating them online. Online marketers who understand this process (as well as the context of a church) and social media will be valued for their skills in this area, as engagement becomes the priority and people make online commitments to Christ, join a small group, serve in a ministry, etc.
3 Churches with effective live streaming of services will have to grapple with the tension between ministry in their local community and a wider geographical ministry. This may mean thinking very carefully through what it means to lessen connection with their local community, and maybe redefining their Mission/Purpose.
4 Churches may struggle to retain connection and engagement [see 2 above]. Given McLuhan's phrase that 'the medium is the message' the possibility of just being a spectator or observer may be increased with online church. The current season is probably a great opportunity for pastors to delegate pastoral care to small/Zoom group leaders and others to the ensure the high levels of connection that are required in transition (Exodus 18).
5 Churches will be differently shaped on the other side of COVID. Churches will use this season to re-evaluate some of their ministries - to subtract those that were less effective for the time and money invested, and to add new ministries.
6 Churches that are prepared will see people come to Christ. People are recognizing that they are not in control of our world. Searches for 'prayer' are trending on Google and research from the US indicates that Coronavirus has increased prayer, including by those who seldom or never pray, and those of no religion.
Do you agree/disagree? What do you think we will see in the next 6-12 months?
© 2020 Ian Duncum. All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.
Rev Dr Ian Duncum is an author (The Impact of Church Consultancy is available here https://www.ianduncum.com.au/shop), and a consultant with 20 years experience of working with non-profit enterprises and churches across a number of denominations. This has included denominational leadership in church health and development, and research positions. Ian also trains church consultants, facilitates training for ministers and leaders, and provides coaching, mentoring and supervision for pastors and other leaders. He can be contacted through www.ianduncum.com.au or firstname.lastname@example.org