By Kristin Schultz
If the last few months have taught ministry leaders anything, it’s that plans change. We put hours of preparation into Easter services and celebrations then had to scrap them as the COVID-19 pandemic tightened its grip. We had to pivot from birthday treats in Sunday School to drive-by birthday parades. We had to adapt in-person Bible studies to be suitable as a Zoom meeting. Plans changed.
While it has been challenging (and sometimes exhausting), we also have seen the Lord do mighty things in spite of our circumstances. People who had never given a relationship with Jesus much thought suddenly had a new way to encounter him and his love via online worship. Community members who lost jobs were helped when God’s people eased financial burdens through donations of food, money, and basic necessities. Plans changed.
While our plans have had to change, we know our loving heavenly Father does not change. Jesus Christ and his love, forgiveness, and provision for our life and ministry is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So as we look to the start of a new ministry year, we again make plans. As we work with our staff members and volunteers to set schedules and events for the fall and winter, it’s important to keep the events of the last few months in mind and build on our strengths.
Technology: A both-and approach
We’ve learned a lot about the benefits of technology and can carry those insights into the fall. If you need to have a meeting to make decisions or simply touch base about the business of ministry, a Zoom call could be the best platform. Leadership can attend and contribute from home without worrying about travel time.
Some people enjoy the fellowship of Bible study and others have a hard time fitting it into their schedules. Consider using online meeting technology in addition to in-person classes to include those who want to attend but have a hard time getting to your building.
Recording classes and sending them out is another way to engage people in ministry but at a time that is best for them.
Evaluate which new parts of ministry should continue and which aspects can fall away. Some pastors intend to keep offering a digital service because it reaches a different audience. Use survey tools to ask congregation members what they like. What do they think about staying connected through a newly established Facebook group? Which parts of digital worship and faith life do members want to see continued?
Many ministries have been working with other ministries, social services, and schools to meet the needs of the community. If you have partnered with a local organization or neighboring church, make sure to include them in your fall planning. Talk about ways you can continue to lift up and support one another. Maybe you make a commitment for ongoing financial support. Perhaps someone in your ministry has a skill or gift that can be shared to bolster the effectiveness of a partner ministry.
Work together to find new areas in which you could offer mutual support. If you’ve been supporting your local school system, are there other ways you could help? Could the school use your space for tutoring or do you have additional storage for a local food pantry? Does your ministry offer counseling services that members of other congregations could benefit from?
Let God use the new partnerships you have developed to further bring Christ to the world.
Staff and volunteer changes and opportunities
As we have faced new challenges and re-imagined ministry to meet the needs of God’s people, new volunteers may have joined you in mission. Even if ministry has returned to normal for the fall, resist the temptation to return to working with the same people you did last year. Ask new people how they would like to continue to serve. How would they like to go forward?
Even as we work to engage new volunteers, it’s important to check in on ourselves and staff members. Many of us have had to quickly learn new technological skills and others have developed a robust online ministry that is not sustainable alongside a fully operational in-person ministry. Ask yourself and the people you work with to be honest about their professional and emotional capacity to carry out traditional and new ministry.
Yes, much has changed since March. But planning for ministry in the fall gives us the opportunity to take a prayerful look at how God has used us and blessed us to be a blessing in our communities for the next few months and for years to come.
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