Managing Ministry in the Messy Middle

Remember the simple days of March 2020 when we all knew church couldn’t happen in-person, and online was all we had? Now every church’s social standing is “It’s Complicated”. Are we meeting again? How many? Who? What are the protocols?

Churches all across the country are trying to find the right balance of fostering our spiritual health and managing our physical health, and that’s not an easy task.

This week, Scott and I have three observations about this “messy middle” we’re living in right now.

You can watch the video version of the podcast on Facebook or YouTube.

Things are open, mostly.

Save for a few states and cities, “normal” life is beginning to emerge from its coronavirus cocoon. We’re still sitting on a tree branch while our wings dry, though. If your church is still trying to decide when to reopen, you’re probably safe to follow what most businesses are doing in your area now. That probably means open, but not normal yet.

Of course, your church is different in that you have large groups of people gather together intentionally, so following recommended safety guidelines is a good idea.

People don’t want to be in crowds yet.

Lower density, socially distanced worship services will probably do better than full-open. Surveys and experience have shown that people are less interested in being in spaces where they have to be in close contact for longer periods of time.

Work on finding new ways to create the social and emotional connection that people appreciate about church, while maintaining the best safety you can. One option is an outdoor gathering space or event. Outdoor interactions are far safer than indoor. We realize that poses a challenge for churches in hot climates, but tents, fans, and water misters can help.

Digital fatigue is real.

Online church attendance is dropping for a lot of churches because the novelty is gone and the experience is just not the same. We’re not saying online worship services and groups should stop – we actually said the opposite in last week’s episode. Online church is here to stay, but most people are ready to change things up and regain some part of what they know and love about church.

This is another aspect that needs a creative solution. In the first few weeks of the lockdown many churches were making phone calls to check in on people. That voice on the phone giving personalized attention went a long way in maintaining an emotional connection to the church and showing that they were cared for. It’s a great volunteer opportunity and role for small group and Sunday School leaders.

We’re here for you and praying for your success. If you’d like to connect with one of us to discuss how we can help your church get further, faster, and with less frustration in making disciples of Jesus, click here now.

A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive and travels internationally to teach and train pastors to lead healthy disciple-making churches. A.J. lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas area, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.

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