Church, I'm proud of you. The challenge of Covid-19 stepped up, and many of you stepped up as well. Coronavirus downed your buildings. Your Queen was taken off the Chess Board (well, truthfully, we talked about that analogy here as well). In response to this, many, many of you have started streaming services online. Some of you have been even more aggressive, doing daily devotional broadcasts, writing devotionals... Church, many of you are harkening back to the call of Acts 2, where the Church was in community daily. Covid-19 awoke the desire to be more than one hour on Sunday.
Stats for this COVID-19 Season
For some of us, it's working! Carey Nieuwhof reports 49% of churches are increasing in size over the past month. Similarly, Barna is reporting 44% of you are growing in this season, while 29% of you are decreasing over the same season. Our content, as well as our lack of content, is impacting people.
That being said, our people are looking for more than content. Verizon left me shocked: the busiest day of the year for voice calls and texts is Mother's Day, cause who doesn't call their mom on Mother's Day? Well, evidently every day in the Coronavirus season is borderline Mother's Day when it comes to voice calls. Who knew these devices you carry in your pocket allow you to just talk audibly with other people? What a concept! That being said, it's not an entirely analog world. Zoom reports that it's user based surged from 10 million people to 200 million people in this Covid-19 season. Voice... voice is the new popular app in this Covid-19 season.
Our people are not just looking for content. They're looking for community. We're experiencing Content Overload while being Conversation Starved. In order for us to be effective as a church, we need to recognize God calls us to be more than Netflix. We should have a higher standard than Disney+. Okay, our physical buildings can't hold to the physical standard of Disney World, but we've always said Church is more than a building. Church is the people. And in this Covid-19 situation, people need people?
Pastors, We are Being Broken
What is the Church's response? Well, pastors and church staff are exhausted. We at THECHURCH.DIGITAL have talked about it here, and here, and here, and here and here with another podcast coming on Thursday. (Yeah, It's a big deal to us.) Even Ed Stetzer is talking about it. I've personally talked with pastors and staff around the country as well as those in my backyard. Lots of people are struggling to pastorally lead in this season. Ed's right. It's gotta be addressed. The answer may be better priorities and time management skills...
However, I think part of the problem is that God is revealing in us flaws in our model of church. There is a level here where God is breaking this model of church. The "one hour a week" model does not work online, which is why many of you ramped up to do more content... because it's easy to do content. Well, not easy if you're trying to do multiple content pieces a day, seven days a week and in the middle of all of this try to rewrite Easter Sunday, the Superbowl of Church Services... in the midst of a global pandemic. All that and our people are not looking for content only. They are looking for conversation. Which is exhausting due to the size of our organizations! So, what's going to give? How are we going to survive, especially if this is the new normal?
The Four, Non-Theological, Pillars of Church
Jay Kranda hit the nail on the head in a recent episode of The Church Digital Podcast. Our churches should be built on four communication pillars for spiritual growth.
- Large Gatherings - Whether your a 100 person church or 1,000 or 10,000... let's consider your large gathering as your typical Sunday Service.
- Small Gatherings - Small Group, Sunday School, Bible Study, Cell Groups, Community Groups. So many names, with one essential purpose.
- One-on-One, One-to-Few - Discipleship, Disciple-making, D-Groups, Accountability. You could probably even throw in words in this category like "Leadership Development." On Mission always resonates with me. It's amazing the depth that can come in a one-to-few accountability group.
- Self-Guided Opportunities - Devotionals, Resources. Are we helping people understand the need to feed themselves? If they can't feed themselves, how do we expect them to feed others?
Take a moment and evaluate your church's PHYSICAL MINISTRY on this, but then evaluate your church's DIGITAL MINISTRY to these same pillars. How is your church utilizing these pillars. Is it really effective? Work through this questions on your Physical Church and your Covid-19 Digital Church. Do it. I'll wait...
How did you score? How do the scores relate to each other?
My gut is that your pillars are similar between PHYSICAL and DIGITAL, because most of us in this COVID-19 season just moved our physical ministry online. Which, given the pressure cooker that March 2020 was, makes sense. Typically Church Online is a force magnifier. Whatever issues you had physically will show up online... only worse! But now that we're past Easter, what if we stopped and re-evaluated our strategy. What if we didn't look at our Digital Church strategy as a mirror image of what we are accomplishing physically, but what if we developed a Digital Church strategy that complemented the work that we are doing physically? Not copying or even replicating... digital complements physical to complete the four pillars mentioned above in a well balanced strategy.
Rather than being a Physical-only church, or a Digital-only church, what if we became a PHYGITAL CHURCH, one that uses Digital to complement Physical? What if this Digital-only experiment we call COVID-19 causes us to realize that the Physical Church on its own may struggle to hold to the standard of these pillars, but with a digital strategy in place your church can thrive, grow and multiply. Yes, multiply.
More on that coming soon.