By Thom S. Rainer
In a recent article, I wrote that churches will never be the same after the pandemic. An important corollary to that thesis is that pastors will never be the same. Though the biblical standards of pastoral ministry remain constant, how pastors carry out that ministry will change dramatically. In many ways, the changes are already taking place.
- Pastors will either thrive with an attitude of abundance or retreat with an attitude of scarcity. Some pastors are already adapting incredibly well during the pandemic. They are functioning more with an attitude of God’s abundant provisions than one of scarcity. These pastors are becoming amazingly creative and positive about the future. Unfortunately, others can’t wait to return to a church world that no longer exists. Those leaders will not do well. Some are looking to denominations and donors to rescue their churches even though they have all the resources they need right now.
- More pastors will see the building as a means, not an end. I spoke with a pastor who shared his amazement at how well his church is doing without a physical facility during the pandemic. For sure, he will be glad to be able to return to the building. But his views on church facilities have changed dramatically. If you want to see how churches have defined themselves by buildings, go to the “About” section on a church website. A number of churches narrate their successes in ministry by the different buildings the church has constructed. That world is changing.
- More pastors will see the digital world as an opportunity for the gospel rather than an evil to be cursed. Nope, I am not seeing many rants about the evils of the internet as a plethora of pastors are using Facebook live for digital services. What a difference a pandemic makes! Sure, the digital world has evil in it. The whole world has evil in it. Some pastors right now are re-thinking how their churches can engage the digital world. Others are just waiting for the pandemic to pass where they can do ministry as usual. Those leaders will not do well.
- More pastors are re-discovering and re-engaging their communities. For too long, some church leaders have devised strategies to get guests to “come to church.” The pandemic has forced them to see that the church building is only a gathering point, not an ultimate destination. These leaders are leading their churches right now to find ways to be a positive ministry and influence in the community. So, the church is going to the community rather than pushing the community to go to the church.
- A number of pastors are looking at metrics differently. For example, what are the implications when a church of 125 in attendance has a digital service with 500 views? Who are those people? How many of them are local? How can we connect with them? How can we serve them? Most church metrics are focused on how many people show up in a facility or give funds to the organization. The pandemic has opened the eyes of pastors to countless new possibilities.
The pandemic is changing the way we do church. The pandemic is changing the way pastors will shepherd and lead in the future.
Look at God’s possibilities rather than the artificial limitations imposed by COVID-19.