One of the most interesting things I’m seeing around the world is how pastors are ready to change things as they emerge from the COVID lockdowns. They’re wondering why church services have rarely evolved over the last hundred or more years, and perhaps it’s time for a shakeup. Even when the “Jesus People” came on the scene back in the late 60’s, the greatest shift happened in the music on Sundays, but little else changed. Later, Darlene Zschech and Hillsong Church put worship music on the front burner, and today that style of music is the biggest selling category in the Christian world.
And although things are more casual and pastors often preach in jeans and a t-shirt, when it comes to the structure of most church services, things haven’t really changed very much, and many pastors are wondering what other possibilities are out there.
Here’s a handful of examples I’m seeing developing around the world:
– I’ve heard from pastors (particularly in Europe) who are experimenting with a variation of the Catholic daily mass. Many Catholic churches have a daily, morning mass that’s smaller and more intimate than the Sunday service, and now many protestant churches are now trying something similar online. During the lockdowns, Pastor Steve Vaggalis at Destiny Worship Center in Destin, Florida began a daily teaching and devotional service in a Facebook group at 7:14 every morning Monday through Friday (the name is based on the Unite714 movement). He has between 200-300 people participating live every morning, and then has 2,000-3,000 watch the replay during the day. Post Covid, he’s continuing and has no plans to stop.
– Even though the lockdowns are over, at least one pastor is continuing to livestream his services 3 Sundays a month and only do physical services the 4th Sunday. But on that 4th weekend, they’re holding a big worship music event on Friday night, then on Saturday the congregation is going into the community to help the homeless, feed the hungry, and work in other outreaches. Then on Sunday they have a regular physical service in the sanctuary. They’re continuing to have small groups – especially for new believers, but for the main congregation, they’re moving to once a month in the sanctuary.
– I heard from another pastor recently that’s conducted online communion services 450 days in a row.
– Other pastors have realized the importance of their livestream, and rather than simply stream the Sunday service, they’re continuing to produce a unique service just for the livestream audience. It’s a lot more work, but they realize that watching online is a completely different experience than watching in a sanctuary, so they’re determined to maximize the impact of each platform.
– This article is an update on what Facebook is doing to reach out to faith communities right now, and how some churches are working with them to further connections in their communities.
The point isn’t that you agree or disagree with these strategies, but I’m very happy pastors and church leaders are exploring new ways to make an impact. As I’ve mentioned before, over the last year we’ve had messages like this will be a new normal, and things will be different pounded into our heads. Which means that people aren’t just open to change, they’re expecting it.
So whatever you’ve been thinking about or wherever you feel God is leading, this may be your moment.
Phil Cooke, Ph.D. is a producer and media consultant to churches and ministries across the country. His latest book is “The Way Back: How Christians Blew Their Credibility and How We Get It Back.” Find out more at www.philcooke.com.