There was an article written by Andy Crouch, Kurt Keilhacker, and Dave Blanchard back at the beginning of the pandemic that received a lot of attention and prompted a lot of conversation. You can read that here.
Some were willing to have conversations about the implications early and others are just now beginning to have them. What we have learned is that what was thought to be an event that lasted days or weeks has lasted more than two seasons and will likely impact how we embody what it means to be the church for years to come.What we have learned is that what was thought to be an event that lasted days or weeks has lasted more than two seasons and will likely impact how we embody what it means to be the church for years to come. Click To Tweet
The idea of leading beyond the blizzard has us thinking that after this wilderness season what most of us will find is less of a return to normal or back to business as usual and more of a restart or even startup. I still have more questions than answers however there are three words that have been framing those questions that I think can help to reframe what it means to relaunch with new purpose; NOW, NEXT, and, NEW
What can we do now in this wilderness season?
It has been helpful for me to remember that the time God’s people and God’s Son spent in the wilderness was a time of preparation and formation for the mission in front of them. The thoughts and questions below might prove helpful in becoming attentive to how God might be equipping and preparing you and your church in this season.
- Recognize and acknowledge the collective grief. Give people space to express it
- Tend to the people God has already given you whether in your inherited model of church and/or your fresh expressions of church.
Many folks have done that online, some through phone calls, daily devotionals, emails, letter writing. While many have made that pivot a bit more readily in our inherited models of church, what does that look like in an FX? Could you pivot those online or perhaps unite as an FX community to support the business owner of the restaurant, or coffee house you gathered in? Might you use their services to send lunch to first responders, front liners, or the staff/volunteers at a food pantry?
- Equip and empower the people of God in their places. What tools can you provide to help existing church members grow as pastors of their own homes or love their neighbors well?
- When in doubt go deeper rather than wider. Press into the development of disciples over the delivery of religious goods. Take time to train or retrain leaders.
What does next look like?
This is different for everyone due to our contexts, limitations, and continuously unfolding reality.With scarcity comes clarity, and that desperation is the seedbed of innovation. Click To Tweet
But it has been said that with scarcity comes clarity, and that desperation is the seedbed of innovation. If you could start all over again what would you do differently? Going back to the idea of relaunching these questions might prove helpful.
- What has this time shown you is essential and what is not? What needs to be put down and left behind and what needs to be picked up and carried forward?
- What adaptations and/or modifications have been made to how you are doing things that need to be pressed into? In many contexts livestream worship has been successful in engaging new worshippers. What would it look like to further engage these new worshippers more intentionally? How do you transition online worshippers to building relationships and discipleship online?
- What has not happened during this time? Now that it has not happened will it happen next year or in years to come? What do you need to divest yourself of to invest in new ways?
- What once valuable role on your staff has not proven to be valuable or needed during this time? Does the person in the role have the ability to adapt to a new one? Perhaps a volunteer could fill that role when needed again.
- What leaders, leadership, and/or entrepreneurial gifts have emerged that might prove valuable and useful in the new frontier?
The church has been scattered and distributed before. The persecution of believers in Acts 11 ultimately meant the birth of the church at Antioch, the first FX of the church. With that in mind the church is in a season packed with both/and possibility, the gathered and the sent in the new thing the church is becoming
What new thing will you try?We are all navigating some uncharted territory. None of us has lived through a pandemic before. As a result, we have all had to try new things and adapt to new ways of doing things. Click To Tweet
We are all navigating some uncharted territory. None of us has lived through a pandemic before. As a result, we have all had to try new things and adapt to new ways of doing things. This is a great time to experiment with new ways of being church both gathered and sent. Most of us have discovered that church can be church without a building in a fresh new way and are poised to lean into new ideas as a more resilient people.
- How can we lean into more generative forms of leadership and our understanding of the priesthood of all believers? There are too many exhausted pastors trying to do it all. How might we empower the whole body and share the work of the church in new ways, neighborhood captains, shared conversations, prayer circles or calls?
- Is there a neighborhood, network, or need that your church has rallied around? Caring for healthcare workers, food instability, and supporting small businesses could translate to a network of dinner churches that feed hungry people while supporting local restaurants to provide the food, deepening relationships through loving and serving and building community with new people in potential third spaces for fresh expressions of church to happen.
I hope these questions will provide a helpful frame for pressing into what God is doing amid this season and how God is preparing you and your church. God does not waste anything.
Heather Jallad serves an innovative dual appointment as pastor of community engagement at Mount Pisgah UMC in Johns Creek, GA as well as Lead Cultivator of FX for the North Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. She is the pioneer of Douglasville Dinner Church, and is in the experimental phase of a Supper Club and a Common Grounds Coffee House Gathering. She completed her M.Div. at Asbury Theological Seminary and holds a BA in Mass Communications/Public Relations from the University of South Florida. Heather has served churches across the Atlanta metro area in a variety of roles. She and her husband Marten have been married for 26 years and have two daughters, Ariana, a college senior and Sierra, a high school junior.