As I write these words, parts of the country are beginning to reopen. Some states are lifting restrictions and even in Pennsylvania, golf courses, marinas and private campgrounds will be allowed to open—with restrictions in place—on Friday. There are mixed feelings about these announcements: Some have been eager for them, others aren’t so sure they’re ready, and church leaders seem to be busy wrestling with the logistics of how and when to open the doors again.
In the midst of that I want to encourage you not to get lost in the logistics. Now let me be clear, I am not advocating for reckless behavior and rushed decisions; what I am saying is keep your eyes on the bigger picture too. Who are you as a church? Where do you want to go? Why are you reopening things or resuming ministries in any given order? Your job—maybe one of your most important jobs as a leader in this moment—is to cast vision.
The reality is that while folks are talking about wanting to “get back to normal,” that normal no longer exists. New practices and behaviors are part of our world and aren’t likely to disappear simply because stay-at-home orders are lifted. This isn’t a new phenomenon.
World events have changed long-term behavior many times before. For example, I still occasionally enjoy cream sauce on toast for dinner, a Depression-era meal that stuck in my family. Others hide money away in their homes, another practice born of the Depression. We don’t yet know what behaviors and practices will stick with us through this pandemic, but many could. I physically backed up when one of my own extended family members opened a door recently; telecommuting is being normalized; people have been hoarding supplies. At the very least, these practices won’t disappear overnight.
Carey Nieuwhof recently wrote: “Don’t get me wrong, I think the in-person church is here to stay. But the biggest mistake most leaders will make is the emotional rush to get back into a facility, to see everyone again, to assemble their team and get back to ‘normal’, they’ll re-embrace a model of ministry designed to reach a world that no longer exists.” See the full article here.
If all this is true and the world has been forever altered, then leaders cannot make the mistake of simply jumping back in to business as usual. Instead, Christian leaders must keep on drawing people into a vision of where we could go, drawing on both the past and the present.
Here are a few suggestions as you seek to cast vision in your setting: