12 Things Churches Changed During COVID That They Are Keeping after COVID

For many churches, the quarantine was a time for introspection and evaluation. We often refer to it as “the blank slate.” We know that most churches stopped meeting in person during the quarantine. We also know that churches had to pivot and make several changes.

But the question we sought to answer was: What is something your church changed DURING the pandemic that you will keep AFTER the pandemic? This brief survey was started in our Church Answers’ community by a pastor. I continued the topic on social media.

Though we had many more changes articulated than twelve, these same twelve were common and repeated. They are listed in order of frequency of response. Surprisingly, the first three were related to giving.

1. Digital giving. Clearly, this response was number one. Churches either moved to digital giving for the first time, or they emphasized digital giving more than ever. This pattern will continue for the foreseeable future.

2. No passing of the offering plates. For obvious hygienic reasons, many churches stopped passing the offering plates during worship services as churches began to regather. Most of those churches have decided not to resume the practice.

3. Offering boxes. The offering box became the alternative for giving when the church met in person. The box was typically placed in one or more visible locations as people entered and exited the services. It looks like the boxes are here to stay.

4. The final demise of the meet and greet. This practice was declining prior to the pandemic. With a few exceptions, it looks like it’s going away permanently. No more handshakes and hugs during the worship services. I am not grieving the loss.

5. Streaming of worship services. While a few churches decided not to resume either live streaming or recorded streaming of services, most have decided to keep it. Obviously, the number of viewers in most churches has declined since its pandemic peak. Still, the churches as a whole see its ongoing value.

6. The final demise of Sunday evening services. This practice had declined significantly before the pandemic. With a few exceptions, the Sunday evening service begun in the agrarian era has disappeared completely.

7. Less cluttered calendars. Many churches found that they were more effective with fewer meetings, ministries, and programs. A number of leaders have expressed surprise that they are doing more with less. The cluttered church calendar has become a simple calendar.

8. Digital prayer gatherings. One of the most positive developments of the church during the pandemic was digital prayer gatherings. A number of church leaders told us that they had more people participate than ever before. They have decided to keep it.

9. Digital Bible studies and discipleship. Although groups such as community groups, life groups, or Sunday school classes have largely resumed in-person meetings, many churches still have online groups going. These groups are typically short-term studies designed for deeper discipleship.

10. Greater involvement in social media. Many churches discovered great ways to communicate via social media. In fact, some congregations had no social media presence before the pandemic. For many churches, their social media engagement is greater than ever.

11. More intentional hygienic efforts. When churches began to regather, they offered a number of hand sanitizer stations and took many other hygienic measures. This change will likely be a permanent reality for many congregations.

12. Personnel for media and digital presence. While many of these part-time, volunteer, or full-time staff were hired to set up and maintain streaming services, churches are seeing the value of these positions well beyond streaming services. As a consequence, they are keeping the personnel beyond the pandemic.

Thank you for all of the responses you provided. I would love to hear from more of you. What is something your church changed DURING the pandemic that you will keep AFTER the pandemic?

Posted on August 2, 2021

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Gail Green says on

    I accepted the change of digital church

  • Unfortunately, our full choir and band have yet to come back to our Mass. I’m leading the music with just my keyboard player. I don’t see that changing any time soon with now the new mask mandate.

  • Nancy Wichmann says on

    Our members are older and find those self-serve communion cups difficult to open. How are churches responding to this need?

    • Michael Lum says on

      Try the ones at World Communion Cup. Much better quality and easy to open.

    • Matt Hickok says on

      We have been double stacking communion cups – the bottom one with bread, the top one with juice – and having ushers walk down the aisle

    • Jacqueline Ridings says on

      We have the same situation – our solution is to use 2 plastic communion cups. Put the cracker in one cup and the juice in the other and stack them with the cracker on the bottom. Place in the serving tray. We walk by and pick up one unit and go back to our seat. It’s working well for us.

  • Dave Goupille says on

    Thanks for this post. We’ve discovered that we’ve gotten back to an 80-90% level for attendance on Sunday mornings. The good news is that we’ve gained new attendees. We can really identify with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 10, 11, and 12. We’re admittedly struggling with #6. This is a farming community, and Sunday Evening Services are deeply engrained in our church culture. Giving is substantially up, without passing the offering plates. Over all, there is a great spirit of anticipation for what the Lord wants us to do next! We’ve begun really asking the question, “How does this help in making disciples?”

  • I’m the pastor of a country church and some of these are difficult in a rural setting. Some of them we have continued. But when I suggested no more Sunday nights, meet and greet, and passing the plate, I got major opposition, like we were being unbiblical.

    • Michael Walker says on

      If we’re not careful the enemy will use these methods to divide and conquer we are living in some critical times we cannot afford to distance ourselves and have people rely totally upon streamlining etc. It is important now more than ever discipleship should be made hands on. Jesus said follow me not just listen to me. These methods we are using should be in addition to what we do and not replace what we do God bless

  • You also may have formed an online congregation. Today people are participating in online services all over the world. Some churches and temples implemented and began webcasting their daily services either on YouTube or their own sites. Some are clergy led and others are lay led. For Anglicans and Catholics, the Daily Office made a comeback as well as the old monastic services such as Lauds, Vespers and Compline. Anyone can join and watch live or delayed. I have heard more sung Latin in a bit over a year than in all my life. The Bible was meant to go to the world and this method will accomplish it.
    This should also remind whoever gives the sermon/homily to not get political.

  • This is a great measuring stick! I just reviewed it with the Servant Leader of the Trustee Ministry and we are glad to report we’ve hit each of these 12 points of emphasis! Thanks for all of your work in ministry! I regularly read your books and use the info contained within…Who Moved My Pulpit saved my pastoral ministry!

  • I have been pleasantly shocked that our in-person attendance is approaching pre-pandemic levels AND that our online presence is still robust. What is really surprising to me is, even with our intentional transition from live streaming to uploading worship to YouTube, both numbers have been steady or increasing.

    One unexpected change as the pandemic moves into its second year is a renewed interest in physical plant maintenance and rehabilitation. As with many churches, a lot of maintenance has been deferred for years if not decades (and possibly a century), and being reintroduced to our sanctuary (stand alone structure – constructed in the 1750s) the members have realized there is a lot of work to do AND that there is a need to do the work if we will be revitalized, not just post-pandemic but in general.

  • DAVID FROST says on

    We have about anywhere from 60-70% return to in person attendance, but our online live viewer has increased since our return to in person meeting.We have been able to reach people who can not attend church and they have expressed that they feel a part of our church through our live online presence. Of these online live viewers many are new to our church and most of them are giving to our church. We plan to continue this presence. It is a real and viable outreach and community.

  • William A. Secrest says on

    We started having and offering box in the back of the church. We stream just the sermon and are definitely more engaged in social media.

  • Jimmy Stewart says on

    Love this recap! We experienced and are experiencing 10 of the 12. One additional major shift has been toward disciple making. The church can and must and will exist without meeting in large venues when we emphasize making disciples who make disciples!!!