For many of us, this year has reminded (or taught) us that what actually happens can be far from any of our expectations or predictions. Many of the things we anticipated this past year did not happen while uncertainty has become a 2020 watchword. We’ve lived in a constant state of ambiguity that’s left the entire world exhausted. Churches have done their best to care for people in the midst of all they encountered. It’s been difficult, though, as church leaders didn’t know what to expect over the course of the year and had to do their best throughout all the challenges.
As 2021 is right around the corner and as people look to the new year with a sense of hope and newness, it’s time to think about resolutions and predictions of what the future might bring (even though uncertainty of what’s to come still looms large).
Here are the main things that are almost certain to affect church growth in 2021 and determine the way we all do church in the new normal that the pandemic has brought.
1. Virtual church is here to stay.
Even though most churches have opened their doors once again, there are still a number of people who are either unable to attend church or are uncomfortable taking the risk to be in the physical presence of others. Churches cannot ignore the spiritual needs of these people. During the quarantines and state-imposed lockdowns, most churches prepared online services for people to participate in at home. Since they now have the technology, personnel, and systems to produce those services, continuing them into the new year to reach as many people in their homes is possible. Churches should plan to continue virtual church for the foreseeable future, including hiring additional staff and dedicating additional resources to making these online services the best and most effective community resource they can be.
2. Church spaces will be reimagined.
Whether it’s children’s ministries spaces, auditoriums, Bible study rooms or church coffee shops, worship spaces will have to be assessed. The regulations regarding social distancing and group gathering may be in place for the foreseeable future. Therefore, our church spaces need to adjust to those regulations while still meeting as many of the needs of the members of the congregation as possible. Inviting people to fellowship outside during good weather can become a workable solution. Church leaders may have to become more creative during cold and inclement weather. Together, church leaders can take positive steps forward in using their church buildings and church spaces to the maximum while still abiding by state and national guidelines. These guidelines should be written into the annual ministry plans and implemented with enthusiasm.
3. Work from home is here to stay.
The COVID-19 pandemic has driven most of the country home to work. With each passing month, home offices around the country have become more and more permanent. This includes church staff members. Pastors and ministry directors are spending most of their office hours in their home offices, coming to the church only when they absolutely have to meet in person with people or when an event requires them to come to the church. This will have an effect on relationships. Therefore, church leaders will have to work hard to maintain relationships and personal connection with church members and people in the community to express the love of God and the compassion of Christ. It is extra effort that will be well worth it and will build the Kingdom of God.
4. Stewardship is more important than ever.
This year has seen an overall decrease in the giving of tithes and offerings. Churches are, in general, suffering financially. Giving is way behind. As church leaders we must do everything in our power to make it easy and safe for people to give at church, online, or in any way they are able to give. Once they give, we have to steward their money well. People will expect that we are spending the church’s money with great wisdom. We must be economical while prioritizing and investing in Kingdom-growing ministries. This is what our church members will expect of us, and we must follow through.
We might not be able to accurately predict what 2021 will bring. However, by making the most of the circumstances we have been given, we can still be faithful to all that God has for us to do as church leaders and as members of the Body of Christ.