5 Top Changes When Churches Reopen After COVID-19 With Steve Cockram

I interviewed Steve Cockram, an international speaker, author, and consultant to top-level executives and leaders around the world. As we look forward to a time when we can reopen churches after COVID-19, it’s inevitable that there will be permanent changes within the church. Steve shared helpful insight, advice, and strategies about navigating through the challenges churches may face after this pandemic. 

Crises oftentimes serve as accelerators of innovation, and over these last few weeks, COVID-19 has accelerated industries that would naturally be conservative with change when it comes to adjusting their structures and systems. Churches are at the top of this list.

Now, we are seeing churches, schools, and similar industries becoming nimble and embracing this new norm of social distancing for a season. Some even say they are leading the pack in agility. Every church and school has had to accelerate quickly into the digital future in roughly two and a half weeks.

Here are five major changes and challenges that leaders are going to see as they are leading in the digital age:

1. Healthy Work-life Balance In A Digital World

In a digital world that operates 365 24/7, it’s difficult for leaders to turn off work, in turn, making it difficult to stay physically, emotionally, and spiritually healthy. This pattern can quickly lead to burnout. Due to the easy accessibility of conference calls, emails, and video-conferencing for work, it’s not as easy to create a clear delineation between work, rest, play, and vacation. Creating boundaries to balance work and personal life will become essential now and once churches reopen. Two ways to find work-life balance: 

    • Schedule ways to recharge and retreat. This helps leaders to prevent becoming drained and overwhelmed in a world where work can spill over into your personal world. Even place them on your work calendar to let people know when you will be unavailable and when they can reach you again.

    • Recognize and embrace the freedom that exists in having discipline. Having structure and a routine within your everyday life promotes productivity and encourages you to be present in your personal life. 

As the church, schools, and businesses reopen, leaders will notice the benefits of discipline and how it will potentially need to be accelerated mainly because the digital world isn’t going backward. Leaders can also expect there to be a great desire for relational connectivity amongst their community as we gather again. 

2. Leadership Through Influence Not Only Positional Power

There will inevitably be a few noticeable shifts in the structures of influence and positional power. It will be helpful for spiritual leaders to cultivate environments that are conducive for leading through influence, and their influence is going to be earned by who they are just as much as what they do. The relational skill of caring for people will be the most important takeaway for church-goers to gain from their pastors and church leaders. Now that we have virtual accessibility to global sermons, classes, and content, people's main desire will be attending a church that not only has sound theology but also cares deeply for them as a person and provides them the opportunity to connect with othersthe one thing an online service can't give you.

3. Communication That Is Visual And Interactive With Immediate Practical Application

    • Communication will be more effective by using visual and interactive aspects in sermon delivery. Be sure to communicate an immediate application in your sermon as well. If people's attention spans were short before, we now expect quality technology and immediate gratification more than ever before. 

    • Leaders will find it more effective to communicate based upon the fact that people will need to engage with the message versus listening to a sermon for a long period of time. Give people the access to community that they're craving.

    • It will be inevitable for the future of sermon delivery to shift to highly contextualized sermons that show relational care, community relatability, truth, and honesty after COVID-19.

4. Winning Through Agile, Collaborative Teams Rather Than Talented Competitive Individuals

Every person processes information differently which makes it impossible for one individual to be the answer to all the challenges of the digital world. Having a collaborative team takes the pressure off one person to be the fountain of all wisdom. This introduces the idea and evolution of a team becoming the primary unit of performance. 

Leaders will find it helpful and beneficial to create team environments where everyone can bring their best to the table. This will also affirm team members and the space they have to voice their thoughts, concerns, and opinions comfortably. 

    • Having an effective team requires intentionality and paying attention to details such as making sure that each person has an equal amount of time to speak. 

    • As leaders take the time to find ways to ensure their team members feel heard, their team members will also feel valued and appreciated. It’s common for the team’s performance to reflect this which is why it goes a long way to be intentional to support your team. 

    • It’s common for a team that is improving communication through relational trust to improve in overall performance as well.

    • As leaders build collaborative teams, they will find that celebrating diversity and differences with their team members will create a solid foundation and respect within their team as well. 

We are wired for relationships. Meeting with others face-to-face allows relationships to survive through virtual means. In order to grow the depth of relationships and trust, spiritual leaders should find ways to maximize moments that create enough deposits in their team members to carry them through an extended period of time as everyone works virtually. 

5. Leading In A Digitally Connected, Geographically Dispersed World

COVID-19 has produced a new norm of living in a world that is no touch and high-tech. The leadership of teams gets more complex when you're remote. It’s always challenging, but even more now because the skills of running a team in the virtual world are more complex than when we're face- to-face. 

Now, everyone's having a crash course in what it’s like and what’s necessary to have church services and small groups for opportunities of discipleship, virtually. This is why it’s common for many leaders to feel a bit exhausted right now as they’re learning to orient a world that won't last, but will inform the future of the way we have church services. The skills leaders are learning will be incredibly valuable.  

    • Consistently engage with the community. Incorporate access points online where those interested in your church community can begin the journey of engaging with your content. A lot more people are prepared to engage where it feels safe and encouraging before meeting you in person. 

    • Examine and implement new structures. Leaders should begin to explore, examine, and discover what the best combination of high-tech and high-touch would look like to deliver on God's calling for your church.

    • Plan for the future. While learning new skills and implementing new structures as you’re having church services virtually, ask yourself and your team to identify the best of the new things being implemented your church that should remain once it can reopen. Also examine the things that are new that allow you to take the timeless truth of the gospel and contextualize it to make it relevant and accessible as many people as possible. 

COVID-19 will inevitably have a lasting effect on the world, and it will influence the way we do things moving forward as churches begin to reopen. It’s highly unlikely that churches will go back to operating purely the way they had before. We will begin to see churches implementing high-tech and high-touch strategies that focus on discipleship and relationships with people in their community.

Although COVID-19 presents many challenges, spiritual leaders can also find hope and encouragement in the opportunity to embrace the fear of the unknown and come out of this crisis with a model of sharing the faith of Jesus Christ with people that may not have heard or experienced it otherwise.