This week, Ask the Advisors welcomes guest blogger Gilberto Collazo, Vice President of Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF) and Lead for Hope Partnership Services.
Much of the conversation around post COVID-19 focuses on how to observe all of the social distancing guidelines suggested by the Centers for Disease Control. But, what about the living witness of the believers? How can we better position ourselves to offer ministry in this new time? While we say the church has left the building and we claim the church has never closed, have we intentionally dedicated time to dream those new expressions of ministry for a time like this?
In music, many instruments together can eventually produce dissonance. Thus, a pause in the music results in harmony. With all of the noise we have been exposed to during this pandemic, maybe it is time for a pause in the midst of so much dissonance to find our consonance or harmony. Let us use this pause wisely. I would like to offer several movements in the midst of this pause for you to consider.
Use this time to reclaim your foundational purpose.
This might be a good time to spend in prayer, reflection, and bible study to remind ourselves of our original marching orders, captured so well in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19. Jesus said, “Go”. We know that when we lose sight of our purpose — our reason for being a church — we face decline, loss of relevancy, and so much more. This might be the time to go back to that conversation of why are we church, and how will that be expressed in our post-pandemic context.
Use this time to re-evaluate your ministry’s focus and motivation.
What had we been doing prior to this pandemic pause? How effective was it in producing fruit-bearing disciples? What are the transformation stories we can claim as a result of our community engagement? Can we with full transparency name what motivates our work? For some, institutional survival, protecting beloved ministries, or other well-intentioned goals have been the focus of their energy and efforts. But, as church, we are called to be and do more than that. Is there a yearning for a new, deeper experience in your walk with God as a result of these strange times? Do you feel called to disrupt the status quo and encourage something new to emerge? Just imagine if we could leverage all of this energy, time and effort into new expressions of ministry engagement!
Use this time for ministry pruning.
Any gardener knows the importance and advisability of pruning. An effective pruning presages healthy growth and abundant fruit. What needs to be put to rest in our church work? Which of your current ministries need to be celebrated and brought to an end? This will allow for greater focus on current, effective activity and open your space for the new things that could emerge during these challenging times.
Use this time to pivot toward a more intentional focus on community engagement.
What a time to train and empower your members to become ministers unto each other, and onto those in the communities that surround us. Equipping the saints, offering the tools and encouraging them to embrace active ministry will give our churches a new level of community relevance. We already have developed the engagement methods via social media platforms. Why not use them for this?
Use this time to consider how best to physically reengage with your congregation and community when the time comes.
While virtual engagement has, in some cases, allowed us to expand our number of worshippers beyond our congregations, what strategies will win them over in the physical world? How do we continue to live for the time being in a ‘both/and’ world of digital and in-person worship?
Use this time to strategize on how to integrate virtual methodology into your ministry outreach beyond this pandemic.
Is this the time to create long-term virtual small groups alongside face-to-face groups? Could you grow your platform so workshops and training sessions are offered for both church and community? Could your congregation become the conduit for workshops offered by other ministries or organizations? No need to reinvent the wheel, if it already exists!
Use this time to build intentional models of self-care and spiritual growth for pastors and congregational leaders.
Do you remember Pareto’s 80/20 rule? It states that 20% of the group does 80% of the work. Some might claim that percentage is even smaller. Yet, truth be told, there is an expectation that pastors and leaders be the main laborers when it comes to church work. A paradigm shift toward a more equitable distribution of your congregation’s ministry works toward the health and well-being of all. Along with this, however, we need to develop more intentional cultures of self-care and spiritual growth for everyone in our congregations, including pastors, leaders and members.
For a printable handout of these suggestions, please click here.
Nobody can speculate what our new normal will look like with complete certainty. The church has already proven its resilience in ways many did not think possible. But, if we are to remain the voice that cries out in the wilderness preparing the way of the Lord, we must use this time of pause and create new expressions of holy harmony. These will allow us to be a powerful, transformational witness in our community and unto the ends of the earth. May we use this time of pause wisely, so we can continue to be salt and light, hope and life in the midst of trying times.
Gilberto Collazo loves his church! Born and raised in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Puerto Rico, his life was shaped by a vital faith community that led and mentored him into service to the community. After almost 20 years of ministry at DCEF with new and existing congregations in the U.S., he sees a church still called out to shape, mentor, and equip. Gilberto believes congregations can find new life and relevance if they are willing to do the hard work. “Together we can do great things!” (Psalm 108:13a)
For 137 years, DCEF has offered mission-driven building and capital planning services to congregations and organizations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. Together with our investors and partners, we are Disciples helping Disciples.
As part of DCEF, Hope Partnership Services offers leadership and ministry resources that help raise up empowered leaders and prepare their congregations for transformation.