None of us are sad to see 2020 become history. For the rest of our lives we will recall with great emotion the experiences of this year. As painful as it has been, we’ve learned some things. In fact, there are things that we’ve learned that could only be learned in a pandemic.
As a Church leader, I’ve observed some changes, adjustments and new information as they regard ministry and church work. I’ve taken the time to create a list of 8 things about the Church that I am taking away from 2020:
1. The church doesn’t need as many trinkets as we thought. Things once thought indispensable apparently are optional. Things like nice lighting and sophisticated sound equipment and lovely facilities aren’t as important at the end of the year as they were in the beginning. We’ve spent a lot of resources obtaining various ministry tools that are fairly useless right now. This doesn’t mean that these things have no value now or won’t have in the future; but how our priorities change when crisis breaks out! While it’s painful, I believe the refocusing in ministry priorities that has taken place is a good thing. Only the truly necessary ministry elements will survive 2020.
2. Some who refuse to change, change under pressure. As a group, we are not known for our flexibility and innovation. Tradition and even a refusal to adjust has been a hallmark for many of our churches. But this pandemic has forced some to adapt. Pastors are preaching on the internet now who wouldn’t have been caught dead doing so just a year ago. Worship styles have, of necessity, been adjusted. “The way we’ve always done it” doesn’t fly any more. The pandemic has hurt us deeply but we have grown, evolved and, therefore, maintained our effectiveness through a willingness to flex and adjust. I think we are better because of it.
3. Some who appeared to be dedicated, weren’t. CoVid-19 has shaken the Church – at least many of the church members. The number of people in our buildings has been drastically reduced. Some have legitimate reasons for not participating. But some have simply dropped out of church. As is usually the case, pressure squeezes out what is inside of people. Some have dug in deep to commitment and others have quit. 2020 has proven to be a shifting for the church.
4. While a shutdown can happen overnight, a comeback might take a long time. In fact, our comeback is a very long process. We should be prepared to spend most of 2021 rebuilding, refocusing, and restructuring. Those without the maturity to navigate the rebuilding process will fail. Only those who are patient and cautious will succeed in the complete recovery. 2020 has taught us patience.
5. Pastors are stronger than we thought. While we know of too many leaders who have been destroyed during this pandemic (one is too many), the vast majority of ministry leaders are carrying on. They keep battling, keep growing, keep leading. Even when weary under the heavy criticism some have faced, they persevere. I think this says a lot about the character of these women and men. 2020 didn’t defeat us!
6. Some people are more committed to their ideologies than they are their friends (and their church). Unfortunately, some unnecessary battle lines have been drawn and people have been divided. It’s one thing if doctrinal conflict separates colleagues, but it’s a sad day when people are more loyal to their unproven theories than they are their relationships. 2020 taught us that some relationships won’t last.
7. We’re more vulnerable than we thought. While it’s good to have confidence, church leaders must never be presumptuous. Things we thought were secure turned out to be fluid. It’s a humbling thing to realize our need for God’s grace; and we need that kind of humility. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we can do nothing without the Lord.
8. We’re more resilient than we thought. Unless we quit, we will not be defeated! We will come back and, regardless of what it looks like, the Church will be stronger than ever. While we may measure success differently, God has promised us that we will overcome.
The lessons of 2020 will remain with us. Though it’s been painful – and life-altering, we will be better off, stronger and more effective if we will embrace the lessons.
God help us in 2021, Blessed New Year!