I remember a moment at some point last year during the pandemic when I felt paralyzed by all that was going on in this country, my state, and in my community. I was overwhelmed by everything coming at us all at once, yet people in my church were counting on me for the plan.

Usually, I would count on the wisdom of others, but this time everyone was on the Zoom meeting looking to me for answers. I needed a moment to feel my feelings and then provide answers for our team. I am so grateful for my lead pastor who reminded us of the “Thematic Goal” exercise tool by Patrick Lencioni. This helped me find focus and lead our team to find solutions.

Pray about who God needs you to reach now and then follow through.

What we did was set short term goals for our team around one thematic goal. This got us unstuck and enabled us to look beyond the pandemic. You can check out how we moved forward in the article I wrote here.

We spent 51 weeks online as a church. We have a great online ministry, and our team pivoted really fast at the beginning of the pandemic, so this helped us to keep our congregation with us.

If you find yourself a little stuck like I was, the practical things we are doing to continue moving forward might give you some ideas.

Since we have added in-person services, we have realized a number of things. Perhaps these can help you as well.

Not Everyone Wants In-Person Services

Parents shopping online on laptop while looking at daughter having breakfast in dining room
Image Credit: Maskot/Getty Images

Not as many people were ready to return to in-person services as we thought. They have established new habits and some just weren’t comfortable with the idea of gathering in a large group. So, we needed to lead differently to encourage people to join back in person.

We did this by sharing what the new normal looks like. Showing photos of our worship center set up and communicating how we’re keeping people safe has been important. We’re setting small goals for our team and adjusting them as needed.

Listen Well

Your people are smart and want you to succeed. We created surveys and then listened to the results and made adjustments and course corrections based on the feedback we received.

It’s Ok to Create a New Volunteer Team

In many ways, we have felt like we are starting over. Sure, some volunteers returned. But we have to approach this season like a church plant or church launch in order to have the right mindset, so we don’t get upset if certain leaders don’t return. They might never return.

Pray about who God needs you to reach now and follow through.

building for ministry now

Reset Your Expectations

I can’t say this enough. You have a unique opportunity to reset expectations and reshape how you do things. We had an opportunity to press reset on our volunteer culture. People are way more flexible coming out of the pandemic, so we are able to retrain and recast vision of what ministry at our church will look like in the future.

This has also allowed us to experiment more with format and curriculum.

Build on the Excitement

We have a lot of new people that have joined us since we went online—we had no idea that we had gained new families along the way. We shouldn’t have been surprised, but at least 10% of our current attendance are people who joined in the pandemic.

They are excited about what we are doing. We want to build on that!

Communication Is Key

I can’t over-emphasize this. Once you create a communication plan for how often you are connecting with people, what your social media plan is, and what is being communicated, you’ll want to look for the gaps. Sometimes we might light ourselves think that a monthly email communication is enough … but it’s not.

You have a tremendous opportunity to leverage relationship through direct and social media communication. There are some good tools out there that you can use!

We might light ourselves think that a monthly email communication is enough … but it’s not.

Stay Flexible

father hugging little boy
Image credit: Westend61/Getty Images

Be willing to be flexible and move as needed. We have adjusted and readjusted numerous times since we have relaunched in-person services. It is okay to change the plan if something is not working or if there’s a way to be more effective. Just be sure you are communicating why you are changing the plan and continue to communicate as the change is in process.

Continue Evaluating

Re-evaluating what our local community needs from us continues to be important. We have spent a significant amount of time assessing needs and responding. I am sure your congregation is as generous as ours is if they know there is a need.

We have partnered with local school districts, food banks, homeless shelters, and other organizations. When you help others, people notice. That is where some of our growth has come from. The same can happen for you!

What we continue to learn is that there is no longer a sense that things will go back to “normal.” We are in a new chapter of ministry and need to see where God is leading us next. I think when we embrace this kind of thinking, we will be surprised at what God can do in our ministries.