For many churches, the quarantine was a time for introspection and evaluation. We often refer to it as “the blank slate.” We know that most churches stopped meeting in person during the quarantine. We also know that churches had to pivot and make several changes.
But the question we sought to answer was: What is something your church changed DURING the pandemic that you will keep AFTER the pandemic? This brief survey was started in our Church Answers’ community by a pastor. I continued the topic on social media.
Though we had many more changes articulated than twelve, these same twelve were common and repeated. They are listed in order of frequency of response. Surprisingly, the first three were related to giving.
1. Digital giving. Clearly, this response was number one. Churches either moved to digital giving for the first time, or they emphasized digital giving more than ever. This pattern will continue for the foreseeable future.
2. No passing of the offering plates. For obvious hygienic reasons, many churches stopped passing the offering plates during worship services as churches began to regather. Most of those churches have decided not to resume the practice.
3. Offering boxes. The offering box became the alternative for giving when the church met in person. The box was typically placed in one or more visible locations as people entered and exited the services. It looks like the boxes are here to stay.
4. The final demise of the meet and greet. This practice was declining prior to the pandemic. With a few exceptions, it looks like it’s going away permanently. No more handshakes and hugs during the worship services. I am not grieving the loss.
5. Streaming of worship services. While a few churches decided not to resume either live streaming or recorded streaming of services, most have decided to keep it. Obviously, the number of viewers in most churches has declined since its pandemic peak. Still, the churches as a whole see its ongoing value.
6. The final demise of Sunday evening services. This practice had declined significantly before the pandemic. With a few exceptions, the Sunday evening service begun in the agrarian era has disappeared completely.
7. Less cluttered calendars. Many churches found that they were more effective with fewer meetings, ministries, and programs. A number of leaders have expressed surprise that they are doing more with less. The cluttered church calendar has become a simple calendar.
8. Digital prayer gatherings. One of the most positive developments of the church during the pandemic was digital prayer gatherings. A number of church leaders told us that they had more people participate than ever before. They have decided to keep it.
9. Digital Bible studies and discipleship. Although groups such as community groups, life groups, or Sunday school classes have largely resumed in-person meetings, many churches still have online groups going. These groups are typically short-term studies designed for deeper discipleship.
10. Greater involvement in social media. Many churches discovered great ways to communicate via social media. In fact, some congregations had no social media presence before the pandemic. For many churches, their social media engagement is greater than ever.
11. More intentional hygienic efforts. When churches began to regather, they offered a number of hand sanitizer stations and took many other hygienic measures. This change will likely be a permanent reality for many congregations.
12. Personnel for media and digital presence. While many of these part-time, volunteer, or full-time staff were hired to set up and maintain streaming services, churches are seeing the value of these positions well beyond streaming services. As a consequence, they are keeping the personnel beyond the pandemic.
This article was originally published at churchanswers.com on August 2. Thom S. Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.