The first week of school is officially behind us in Jefferson County. Like the end of last school year, the beginning of this one is like nothing any of us has ever encountered. The end of the 2019-20 school year was hard for my family. My youngest child was in his senior year, and like most seniors, he finished the year with no prom, no awards banquets, no graduation ceremony, not even a party. Nothing. But we rolled with, we found ways to celebrate, we adapted. This school year none of my children are in state-mandated school, so I haven’t had to worry about virtual, in-person, or hybrid. But it is still different. This is the first time in twenty years there is no “first day” picture. It’s hard to say this, but a good thing to come from the pandemic is that not having to choose how my children are educated has made that transition a little easier. I’m adapting.
I can tell you with confidence that all pastors are concerned about this moment in church history. Church attendance nationwide has been in slow decline for some time; all predictors are that the coronavirus is going to hasten the closing of churches in an unprecedented manner. The closures that were expected to take twenty years prior to the pandemic are now expected to take only five.
Here is what that means for every church: If we want to survive, we must adapt.
The good news is that the pandemic has taught us that we have a greater capacity for change than any of us thought possible! Churches all over the country have learned to adapt to technology to deliver virtual worship services and other ministries. We have learned new ways of serving to help people on the margins. We’ve tolerated masks and less contact to connect people to Christ.
Who knows how long it will take to be free of the virus (notice, I did not say, “…get back to normal.”). But when that day comes, and we start looking forward at what’s next for our church, we will need to be flexible. We will like some of what we need to do, and some of it will be new and, therefore, uncomfortable. We may have to learn new ways of doing old things. But we will adapt.
There is an uncomfortable moment in the book of Acts, where the apostle Paul and Barnabas have such a strong disagreement, that they part ways. That could have meant the end of both of their ministries. Instead, they adapted, and the Church grew.
And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. Acts 15:39-41