Five Ways You Will Be a Different Pastor after the Pandemic

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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. 
  1. 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.

Posted on April 6, 2020

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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  • Elias Rodriguez says on

    Pastor Thom,
    You recently stated in a conference that 12-14 churches will close their doors as a result of the pandemic. Is it possible to know where the numbers come from and the reasons behind it? Thank you very much.

  • Bernadette says on

    I have been pastoring few people in a small building, now my messages are being heard by many people through the media. All this is because of the pandemic right now. There is time for everything!

  • Matt Hallenbeck says on

    It looks like differing opinions are deleted. Might just be a mistake though. I simply commented that ‘digital church’ is not truly corporate worship and we should not consider it to be. It is a useful tool for now but a pale substitute of what God wants and what we really need. I hope we don’t get so excited and used to doing church online that it becomes the norm.

    • Nope. No comments have been deleted.

    • Scroll up a little bit – it’s there.

      But I do wonder: do you think the the only legitimate form of gathering is in a “church” building? What about in homes or public places? What about over video chatting?

      • My only “lack or want” is receiving the Lord’s Supper
        All else I’m fine with online and I miss it dearly

  • I guess I am one of the few who believe that the services we put online are not true corporate worship. God’s people are meant to gather. I think we need to do everything we can during this time to minister to people, but I still think we should lament that we cannot be together in person. I truly hope churches don’t see ‘digital worship’ as the new normal. So much is lost when we are just watching a preacher or musicians on FB or youtube. It may be old fashioned, but I believe it is how God designed us and the church.

    • I hope most pastors are hoping for the day that they meet in person. I don’t think anyone considers online worship as corporate worship. That said, it is, or may be, an important ministry for some who attend our churches to have access to digital worship resources – shut-ins, etc. I know many of my colleagues didn’t have routine online or recorded worship services, but this has caused us to consider what we can do.

      • Jeff Scheibenpflug says on

        I agree. I also add that there are people watching my Sunday streamed sermon who have not as yet darkened the doors of our church, but are watching the stream each Sunday. I think the digital stuff ought not replace the Sunday gathering, but I do believe it will provide a wonderful gateway for those yet to come — a safe way to test the waters, a half step, that will hopefully lead to more openness to attend an actual Church gathering. Only time will tell!

  • Elimelec Juantá says on

    Blessings Mr Rainer

    I want to tell you, that your article is excellent. I am a founding pastor of an organic church, for 3 years now.

    Today more than ever, I have the certainty that the Holy Spirit was guiding us to this modality.

    I would like to receive all the information and comments of what God is putting in your heart.

  • The co-lateral damage of this pandemic has been an asset for our church revitalisation. Instead of myself as pastor pushing the merits of well thought out change and dealing with push back, social distancing has enforced change. Our people have stepped over the cliff and have embraced change like never before. They have discovered that you don’t need to be in the church building to have church. To my surprise, they have embraced online church and love it. Our congregation has almost doubled online.

    While its early days, we are praising God that he is now doing the heavy lifting. Well, he always was doing the heavy lifting but now its before our eyes. Our church is different and I am a different pastor.

  • It took a pandemic. The power of the internet has been in our hands for 35 years and the church, for the most part, ignored it or used it at a minimum. The biggest difference may be that the entire church will undergo restructuring as people discover what they can do for themselves. The role of pastor is likely to change dramatically, requiring significant reschooling.

  • Martin Johnson says on

    Very thought provoking. Let us pray that God will prepare us for service anew and that something good will come out of this pandemic when it’s over.

  • I relate to all but the last one more than the rest. I see those that have been online watching as guests as ones who came to our building. all ok them are people God has given us to minister to.

  • Steve Loffreda says on

    Great idea Thom, Well Jerusalem had a visitation from God and a Church emerged. This is my aim to see people healed and blessed in a gathering as well as on line..

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