Mission First, Model Second
As church leaders flex and stretch their “plans for the future” they may find that mission will trump model in the awakening of a post-pandemic church. Some congregations are still waiting to fully engage in church activities once more.
What has happened since “church 2019”
• Work from home
• Migration from large cities
• Widespread grief and depression
• Economic uncertainty
• Online church
“About half of full-time U.S. workers [around 60 million] report that they’re able to work from home at least part of the time.”[i] The resounding effects of this are widespread. The family lifestyle looks different. There are fewer hours spent commuting and more hours spent at home. A natural transitions to seek larger homes to accommodate the home office space, the desire for a “walkable” living location has resulted. City dwellers who once embraced the urbanized lifestyle of walking to work and shopping now seek that in smaller towns. A trend toward “walkable urbanism” for the suburbs is taking shape. [ii]
Historic churches are revitalizing by remodeling. Not remodeling their buildings per se, but re-modeling their ministry style. To keep their doors open with an ever-decreasing number of congregants, they are opening those doors to serve up what the community needs. They provide food banks, homeless shelters, educational classes, preschool, and more. Renting rooms for community clubs and organizations help provide needed funds for the upkeep on the aging buildings.[iii]
Many people returning to church have lingering mental health issues brought on by the pandemic. Loneliness, fear of infection, death of loved ones, and financial worries have resulted in as high as a 25% increase in anxiety and depression.[iv] How will the church model serve this segment of the congregation? Does the present model require changes? Will the mental health of congregants necessitate online ministries to continue, or will the church engage people sufficiently to return in person? How will that engagement take place?
The mindset of the liberty to choose where to live, not based on where you work, has some interesting implications for the future of the church. Will that mindset transfer to where and how to experience “church”? Jesus’ mission was to “seek and to save that which was lost.”[v]
Where two or more were gathered, there was “church”.[vi] Mega-church, historic church, small church, new church, the answers are found in this mission of seeking and saving. Hold too tight to the old model and the house may fall. Be keen on whom you are seeking. Be flexible. If a restaurant only served their menu on one day of the week and for one hour, would it survive?[vii] That menu would have to be extraordinary.
Keep the mission and prepare the model for the 2022 church and beyond.
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[i] https://fortune.com/2022/04/03/pandemic-migrations-impact-big-deal-future-cities-remote-work-walkable-urbanism-housing-crisis-homeless-coastal-cities-census-work-from-home/ [ii] https://fortune.com/2022/04/03/pandemic-migrations-impact-big-deal-future-cities-remote-work-walkable-urbanism-housing-crisis-homeless-coastal-cities-census-work-from-home/ [iii] https://mynorthwest.com/3329130/historic-city-churches-find-new-life-as-neighborhood-centers/ [iv] https://www.who.int/news/item/02-03-2022-covid-19-pandemic-triggers-25-increase-in-prevalence-of-anxiety-and-depression-worldwide [v] Luke 19:10 [vi] Matthew 18:20 [vii] https://careynieuwhof.com/12-disruptive-church-trends-that-will-rule-2022-and-the-post-pandemic-era/