Last week, I had the privilege of sharing with many of you in a webinar featuring Dr. Thom Rainer and produced by the Texas Conference UMC. Dr. Rainer is the head of a highly respected Christian “think-tank” and coaching platform called Church Answers. Dr. Rainer’s presentation on The Post Quarantine Church was simply stellar. In my 47 years of ordained ministry, it was one of the most practical and helpful presentations I have ever enjoyed. Pastors and lay leaders should run, not walk, to listen to this presentation. (This is especially true for those who don’t think they need it!!!!) A replay can be accessed via our website at ctcumc.org/the-post-quarantine-church-webinar The Cabinet, as a whole, has read and spent dedicated time in learning from Dr. Rainer’s book The Post Quarantine Church as well. We strongly recommend this quick and easy read to you!!
But I am ahead of myself. Allow me to set the context for building a Post-Pandemic Church.
A New Way of Being (“Doing”) Church Anchored in the Same Mission & Vision
At the last gathering of the Central Texas Annual Conference (electronically, online), we adopted a strategy plan entitled Forward to a New Spring. Painfully, yet with honest integrity, we faced the reality that we will not emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic back into a world of 2019 “normalcy.” With Christians leaders across the country and across the world, we understood that “a crisis is an accelerator of change.” A renewed church is struggling to be born out of the “little ice age” of pandemic, chaos and strife that we have been living through. We see God in Christ through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit leading us into a new way of being church.
As we seek to build a post-pandemic Methodist expression of the Christian faith in Central Texas, we remain steadfast in our commitment to the mission of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our vision is unchanging, we are committed to 1) building vital and vibrant congregations which are faithful and fruitful 2) a focus on the Local church, and 3) lay and clergy leadership development. We are steadfastly focused on protecting the core mission, vision and driving values while being flexible with methods and structure (i.e. tactics).
Dr. Rainer’s Post-Quarantine Church presentation is a part two of a seven-part New Church for a New World webinar series designed to support churches in a restart as the COVID-19 influence begins to decline and we start to emerge from our time of quarantine – the first was the equally enthralling BOTH/AND - Maximizing Hybrid Worship Experiences for Online and In-Person Audiences webinar by Jason Moore of Midnight Oil.
Here are a few critical points from Dr. Rainer’s presentation that I’d like to highlight:
Prior to the pandemic, we were all seeing a steady decline in conversion growth. The Pandemic has accelerated that decline!
Do not wish to go back to 2019. It wasn’t that great. Celebrate that the pandemic gives us a blank slate when we come out on the other side.
Coming out of the pandemic, people are more receptive than we realize. It is a Matthew 9 issue (read the chapter).
Think of the “digital” as the point of entry, especially for non- or nominal Christians who are spiritually hungry and searching. Revisit basic website issues. (Three different times Dr. Rainer started emphatically that the lead item on the website when someone first clicks on it should be your physical address and worship times. In a quick personal search of 10 of our very strong churches only 1 had ½ of that two-fold website lead!)
Have clear digital entry points with three basic elements (1) information (2) expectations, (3) assimilation.
The receptively to change in your church is going to be greater than you have seen in the past; this is the opportunity to make changes.
One-half of churches will have a 20% decline and a smaller group will have a 20% growth. It is critical to get that focus back!
Building a New Church for a New World Spring Webinar Series
There is more, much more, but start here with the Rainer webinar presentation and his book The Post Quarantine Church. In the coming weeks, as we continue our journey of emerging from COVID quarantines, lockdowns and restrictions in the name of health and safety, we will continue our New Church for a New World series with five more Zoom Webinar events produced by our own conference teams. Rev. Mike Ramsdell is quarterbacking these presentations with the Vance Morton and our Communications and IT teams bringing their digital expertise to the events.
Please mark your calendars and register for the following lunchtime webinar presentations:
Building a Spiritual Core - Wednesday, March 24, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. - In this presentation, we will focus on making disciples and strengthening our Churches' spiritual lives. There will be a learning time and an opportunity to break into affinity groups to learn from each other. The Churches spiritual core is the foundation of the new future.
Building a Team and Strengthening Stewardship - Wednesday, April 7, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. - One of the things we are discovering in this COVID-19 season is just how vital it is to rely on the team - pastors, staff, and laity. How do we build and rebuild a new team that can tackle the opportunities and seasons ahead? We also hope to add some tools to help churches strengthen stewardship and giving in the local church, a crucial need in the next season.
Building Evangelism into Your Church: Reaching People We Are Not Already Reaching - Wednesday, April 28, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. - The future of the post-COVID-19 church is not reactivating dropouts; it is in reaching new people. This has always been true, but in this new season, it is even more true. How might we step more fully into this important arena? The Methodist church has always been passionate about mission; can we be equally passionate about reaching new people?
Building a Vision and Ministry Audit - Wednesday, May 12, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. - Building a new church vision in a new world is critical. Typically, it cannot be the vision the church had before the pandemic. A key for this work is doing an audit of budgets, ministries, buildings, staff and church teams. This snapshot of where a church is allows a church to take the next steps into where the defined or redefined vision leads.
Building Micro Churches & Small Groups - Wednesday, May 26, 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. - One of the things we discovered in this season is the critical nature of groups and the birth of Micro Churches within an existing church. This is not only critical for growing and strengthening a church, but also for effectively making disciples. How might we integrate this work in the new church start or restart? What will we all be effectively doing as this pandemic begins to fade?
Each of these webinars will include presentations and insights from Mike, myself and special guests, and then conclude with time for affinity groups to breakout and discuss and share common learnings. I very much look forward to sharing this time with you over the next several weeks as we learn together more about how to Build a Post-Pandemic Church.
Click here to register for the Building a New Church for a New World webinar series. Whether you can only make a couple or plan to join all five, you’ll need to register in order to be able to access the free webinars.
The New Church for a New World series reflects the conference's Forward to a New Spring initiative and our continuation of the WIG vision. In this, we hope to offer learnings from the last year and learnings from many sources that will help our churches take hold of the opportunities that now exist that might not have existed a year ago, opportunities to make disciples of Jesus Christ even more effectively