10 Thoughts On Reopening The Church with Carey Nieuwhof

As excitement grows for churches to begin re-opening, there are a number of trends we're seeing in the ways churches will shift their strategies and operations going forward. I interviewed my friend, Cary Nieuwhof, founding pastor of Connexus Church, and sought after conference speaker, podcaster, author, and thought leader, to discuss the changes he's expecting as we look ahead.

At the forefront of every conversation is a resounding uncertainty of what the future holds. It’s difficult to prepare for churches to reopen when there’s no definitive date when that can happen. And when we do start reopening, it will likely be a slow-moving process. However, as we continue to pray and ask God for guidance, wisdom, and discernment, churches are choosing to have hope and faith in reopening. 

10 Thoughts Christian Leaders are Discussing

  1. Looking ahead. It’s common for some leaders to stay focused on this new norm that COVID-19 has created or want to rush back to the previous way of doing things. However, it’s important to remember that crises can serve as the catalyst for innovation. This is a good time to think about what the future of your church can look like once it reopens.  

  2. The shift in preaching. Having church services during COVID-19 has revealed that there are two types of communicators - those who are more comfortable and experienced speaking to crowded rooms in-person and those who are comfortable and more gifted speaking to the camera. It’s imperative for leaders to craft a scenario of reopening in the middle of the unknown. Due to the ever-evolving outcomes of COVID-19, it would be wise for pastors to refrain from long-range sermon planning. Instead, think about your preaching strategy gradually. Right now, does it make sense to maintain on online presence?

  3. Inter-generational environments. This global crisis has presented many challenges but there’s an opportunity present for Christian leaders to cultivate a new norm as an inter-generational environment. Pastors will need the skills to preach and connect virtually as well as in person to connect with all generations and remain relevant and relatable to everyone in their congregation.

  4. Being community-focused. Pastors will have to acquire a different skill set that is centered on the reality of their local community. Loving and caring for your community as a leader will inevitably look different from church to church, as every congregation will have unique experiences and challenges to overcome after COVID-19. Connect with your congregation moving forward by delivering messages that are relatable and meaningful to the circumstances your members are facing.

  5. Offering more worship services. Many churches are creating contingency plans for increasing the number of services early on to disperse the crowds and maintain social distancing. Again, this will look different for each church depending on their size and the number of pastors they have available to preach.

  6. Positions needed in the future. There will be an unavoidable shift in the job positions churches need and the types of personalities and skills needed once the church reopens. Because of the major shift to maintaining an online presence, there’s a high chance that positions related to technology, online platforms, communications, and video will be in high demand. 

  7. Ensure your team remains agile and nimble. No one knows what to expect next, but leaders can still encourage growth and flexibility from their team members. A great way to manage this is giving new tasks to people with skills in certain areas. For example, if you have a team member who is a strong writer, assign them to work on social media posts or emails for your organization regardless of their position and title. This not only invests in their development as a professional, but it widens the breadth of your team's capabilities overall. More than ever, we will see a shift in needing key staff to be flexible and multi-layered.

  8. Financial projections. This is an unprecedented moment, but it may be a moment that will draw more gospel-focused charity out of your community. Financial projections look different for everyone but it’s imperative for leaders to begin to be intentional about this. Remind your regular givers of the impact your church is making even now to encourage them that their gifts matter and are impacting the same cause in new, important ways.

  9. Praying and believing for the best. This is a prominent time for Christian leaders to begin to pray for wisdom and discernment as they move forward with what’s best for their organization. Part of staying agile is being present. God speaks most clearly when we allow room for Him in the present moment, so prioritizing agility will simultaneously open room for you to listen to God.

  10. Lead and steward your community well. Communicating a narrative of hope with a clear vision goes a long way for your community. Stewarding individual's emotions through this uncertainty is vital. As people face unprecedented challenges, there is a huge opportunity to reach them in deeper, more meaningful ways than before. Take advantage of this chance to serve well.

By staying agile and focused on what’s right for your specific context and community, you can begin to transition cautiously and safely without feeling the need to rush long-term decisions. With uncharted territory ahead, we can walk one step at a time, looking forward to the opportunity God can provide in the midst of uncertainty.

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