Redeeming The Pause
Things to consider before we come back to whatever
The leadership of Seabreeze Church in Huntington Beach, CA took the time this past summer to renovate their auditorium. Because, well...why not? Normally, it would cause a disruption that would be manageable, but inconvenient. But during the Big Pause of 2020 (doesn’t that sound better than “Global Pandemic”?) you can actually get some things done.
I certainly do not mean to make light of the very difficult year that many people and organizations have had. We are mourning the loss of many things that made up our normal. And some are mourning much more than that.
But in the parenthetical year we call 2020, I have heard of some very creative ways to not feel as though we are in the waiting room of dentist – not fun waiting for what may be ahead. Consider the following possibilities for the pre-2021 phase we are in right now.
Who knows what lies ahead? But most of us cannot afford to sit and wait. We have to do our best to discern God’s direction for our church in the next chapter. This includes decisions about how best to serve and minister to our congregation and community out of the destabilization of this year. And for many, it may mean re-thinking the ways we disciple people using virtual technology. Still other churches can use the opportunity for long delayed changes since most congregations are not expecting their church to look the same going forward anyway. Clarity about our future may be difficult, but we must try to see the way forward. Adding Agility to our next phase will be the perfect combination: Be as clear as you can and as agile as you are able.
One of the primary questions I hear these days is, “What do you think is going to happen when everyone is allowed to come back to church without restrictions?” Like all of us, I can only speculate. But I have fallen in love with a technique that is simple but powerful for much of the coaching I do with church leaders: Ask the congregation. If there was ever a time for a “check in” to see how people are doing spiritually and emotionally it is now. And from a moving ahead perspective, knowing how people are planning on engaging with the church will be critical as well. Will they be splitting time between physical and virtual worship and meetings? Will they still gather in their small group? Are intending to resource the ministry of the church with their time and money? If I were back in the role of senior pastor, this would be keeping me awake at night. So I say, “Just ask”.
Again, this falls under the umbrella of “everything is changing, so why not this, too?” Some churches need a fresh coat of paint in the conceptual sense (some actually need a fresh coat of paint on the walls, too – but that’s the next paragraph). In the age in which we minister, branding is not a superficial part of reaching people. It is critical – particularly as churches aim to grow younger. It is not that young people need something Madison Avenue slick, they just need to know who we are, what we stand for, and what kind of culture they will be a part of. The opportunity we have right now in the “in between” can allow us the breathing room to do a thorough job of auditing our current branding (art work, website, logo, colors, language, and more) and decide if there is a better way to go forward.
Churches, like Seabreeze (mentioned above), may choose to take advantage of the relative emptiness of campus, grounds and facilities to do capital improvement that otherwise would disturb the normal flow. If classrooms need updates, now is the time. If the sanctuary needs a sound system, now may be the time – and so on. As much as this may require funding that seems shaky for some congregations, members will recognize the prudence of taking advantage of this time period and will often help financially – not everyone has been rocked economically, and done respectfully, it is not wrong to ask for funds to spend on such upgrades. Probably the most common conversation these days, not surprisingly, is the need for extra investment in digital and virtual technology. This applies to churches that are playing catch up in this category, and the ones that have been using this method for a while but realize it will become a more important part of their strategy going forward. **
The fact is; God is not surprised about our situation. And I have been so impressed with the church leaders that I have talked with who are seeking God and asking for discernment about what to learn, do or experience during this crazy year. Many are discovering that they do not need to remain in neutral. It may just be one of those great opportunities by which we mark time – “Remember in 2020, when we took the opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons – God really used that time in the life of our church.”
** As of late November, the very good news from Seabreeze is that they chose to run a capital campaign for a new Youth Building and at this point have out-pledged their target of $3.5M by nearly one million dollars. When last counted, the amount was $4.4M and climbing.
Greg Gibbs is a coffee roaster, consultant and author and regularly tries to convince his wife that he is an Organizational Communication guru. After 30 years and raising four children together, she is still not quite convinced. Greg has spent decades in the church world, advising leadership on vision clarity, fundraising process, and communication effectiveness. He and his wife reside in the suburbs of Detroit.