Paul Nixon, of Discipleship Ministries’ Path 1, says now is the time for churches to discover fresh vitality. Gary Step will lead Zoom conversations that explain more.
Associate Director for Congregational Vibrancy, Michigan Conference
Hybrid Forever! Those were words of wisdom from Paul Nixon. Nixon was referring to the need for churches to offer online and in-person worship. Paul Nixon wrote Weird Church; the book describes how the church is reinventing itself in the 21st century. He is seen as the leading futurist in the United Methodist Church.
The Michigan Area staff met with Paul Nixon last week to discuss a resource he created with three other new church planters and coaches. It’s called Re-Launch: a Conversation on Embracing the Ministry Possibilities of 2020.
I realize that not all churches are in a position to have this discussion. In a crisis, we need to first put out the fire. Most of you are looking for the next logistical steps to get the church doors open and people gathered safely for worship. I get that!
However, some of you will be thinking: why should we be so quick to get back to something that was not working? In the midst of this disequilibrium, it could be the perfect time to rethink/re-launch church. Since March, we have mostly dealt with issues like technical problems. With technical problems, a satisfactory pre-determined response is already available, and one or more experts, who possess solid reputations, are sought to address the issues.
A perfect example is online worship. However, we are in a time when we need adaptive leaders to forge new pathways to the future. Adaptive leaders realize that they don’t have the answers. There are no set of established rules or procedures that exists to address the issues that face us today (even before COVID). It is in such situations that the expertise of an adaptive leader becomes essential. Re-Launch is about adaptive leadership.
The Re-Launch resource comes with a discussion guide and a one-hour video. It is offered through Path 1, the planting arm of the United Methodist Church. Nixon writes, “With the moratorium on social gatherings in most of the world due to the 2020 pandemic, churches have been forced to rethink everything that they do. In some cases, the closures of physical church facilities may be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, advancing the day when certain churches close for good.
“In many more cases, however, churches are discovering a fresh vitality in exile from their buildings. Anecdotal reports from the field suggest that worship attendance more than doubled for many churches during Lent 2020, even as gathering was forced onto computers. This occurred even in post-modern Western Europe!”
During our conversation with Paul, he described how the discussion guide is broken down into three main conversations. The first segment discusses how to reframe the moment. Paul made the comment that this crisis, “bought the church ten years.” I have worked for seven years in the area of church revitalization and the path to vitality often is accompanied by a high resistance to change. Shocker! We have found, on average, that changing the church culture can take four to seven years!
In these few short weeks, we have witnessed a seismic shift in our church cultures as leaders made the technological leaps to move to online worship, adjusted meetings and studies to Zoom platforms, and created new ways to give electronically. Pastors and parishioners learned new and creative ways to do pastoral care as we shelter-in-place, rethinking how to perform funerals, and so much more!
We are learning that online worship is not broadcast worship. Online worship needs to be interactive, shorter, and include a connecting point. I have seen churches adding greeters to on-line worship, creative ways to connect with the virtual guests, and some have added a virtual coffee hour immediately following the service.
My wife and I attend Valley Church in Allendale; they use Facebook Live for worship. This format allows an ongoing interaction by the congregation through comments and emojis. All these additions help with online engagement. Creativity has abounded! Thank You for adjusting so quickly! Through this time, we have also realized how important it is to be together physically. We miss it! I miss being with all of you! It is part of how God has created us; to be in community.
The second segment in this resource discusses how churches could reintroduce themselves to the community. In church planting language, it would be described as a “Good Launch.” During COVID-19 this conversation will look much different than a new church launch. The final discussion in the resource is related to social media and how different platforms can be used for community building. Click here to find the Re-Launch video and guide. Another good article along these lines is: Leading Beyond the Blizzard: Why Every Organization Is Now a Startup.
If you are interested in having a conversation about this resource, to get the creative juices flowing, I am gathering groups on Zoom to discuss these ideas. The groups will be limited to twelve people and will be divided by church size to contextualize and promote a deeper discussion.
Interested? Sign up here for dates and times offered.