beyond regathering after COVID-19

Beyond Regathering: Ministry in the New World

Who moved the cheese? In his book Who Moved My Cheese, Dr. Spencer Johnson describes the difficulty of change in any organization. His tells a story about a maze, cheese, mice, and change. The maze is built just for the mice, and they got used to where the cheese was placed within the maze. When the mice were comfortable with the cheese’s location, the cheese would move and the mice experienced frustration as they attempted to find it again.

Every organization should occasionally ask what their cheese is – what’s comfortable. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of those cheese-moving moments. As church leaders, I think we can all agree that the cheese has moved. What we once used to measure success in the church has changed.

S.W.O.T. Before and During Regathering

Many of you are focused on what regathering looks like in your church. This is practical and necessary. However, there’s another aspect to consider. If you analyze any local congregation, you will discover that there were some strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to its fellowship during COVID-19. Some of these may be ongoing.

You may discover how highly the congregation held gathering together, and now you have church members pushing for the regathering. You may realize that fathers and mothers were not equipped to disciple their children. You may have been forced to discover new opportunities to do ministry outside the walls, and now you get to evaluate whether or not those ministries are ongoing. You may realize that, while social media interaction was invaluable during this time, it threatens the necessity of gathering together as a local church.

The Cheese has Moved

Bottom line: Our cheese has moved. Much of the talk from congregations in Georgia have been centered around regathering. Now is the time to begin thinking about how to apply what we have learned when we do regather. Here are five questions to ask to help you think through ministry in a new world.

How are we investing time, energy, and financing in ministry that has little to no kingdom impact?

There are some things churches have stopped doing because of the pandemic. Some of those activities don’t need to be revived. While some of those ministries were good, they could be keeping you from experiencing and promoting a great ministry. Create a way to measure kingdom impact for each ministry. Choose not to commit any more effort to keeping ineffective ministries alive. Be sure to establish the ‘why’ behind letting any ministry go. Follow the ‘why’ up with a compelling vision of where energy will be spent going forward.  

How are we going to reach out to our communities?

If anything, the pandemic displayed a lack of connection in many communities by the local church. In fact, if some churches never return after this, many in the community wouldn’t even know it. That’s a problem. However, it was amazing to see creativity bubble up out of many churches on how to connect with people. There were ministries to meet many physical needs that were birthed which presented opportunities for the gospel of Jesus to be presented in the community. Based upon what you have learned during this time, how will you move forward to reach your community for Christ?

How will technology be utilized in our fellowship moving forward?

Most churches have gone online during this pandemic. However, watching services at home in your pajamas is not “going to church.” Church is a gathering of God’s people in covenant relationship. However, technology can be a useful tool for outreach and connecting with those who literally can’t be in church. Volunteers can be trained on how to manage the online streaming services of a local church to interact with those who are watching. This opens door for prayer, connection, and the gospel.

Think of the places where your streaming services could impact people for the sake of the Kingdom and begin to task some volunteers to help get the services in those locations. Those locations could be nursing homes, prisons, and even hospitals. Technology doesn’t replace the gathering of believers, but it can be used to impact many for the sake of the Gospel.

How are we training members to be disciple makers?

If church services are ever postponed again due to a crisis, church members need to know how to make disciples. It is of absolute importance that parents know how to invest in their children. They need to know how to lead them to worship, reach, grow, and serve. Don’t allow your church to simply be the location where discipleship takes place. Instead, lead your church to train members to do discipleship. The scorecard has changed. Don’t just count how many you have in a discipleship training program in your church. Start making goals on how many disciple makers you want to produce in the community.

How are we going to teach people about the church?

What is a church? That is no doubt a question that individuals are going to be –  if not already – asking. The world has changed; the church better change. However, how much can a church change and still be a church? This is a great opportunity for any leader to jump up and down on the doctrine of the church.

The author of Hebrews warned 2nd century believers not to forsake assembling together – which had become a habit instead of an intentional action. Studies show that it takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit. If you start looking at how long members have been out of assembling together, there may be some habits that need to be broken.

There will be some who say, “Why do I need to be in church? I can worship anywhere.” The call to join a regathering service – whenever it comes – may be met with statements like these. You need to be equipped to give people a clear, concise, and biblical answer to that question and statement.

How will our ministry look different in the new world?

These questions are merely designed to prime the pump of your own thinking. Let your mind move out of “What are we going to do when we reopen this Sunday?” and start thinking, “How will our ministry look different in the new world and beyond regathering?”

Let me encourage you to check out a video series that will help you think deeper about these issues beyond regathering. I had the honor of sitting down with two pastors, Patrick Latham and Mel Blackaby and talk about how they see ministry changing in the new world. Find them on this page.

Published June 29, 2020