I was in a Zoom Call earlier this week where the question “What is the future of mission post-Covid?” was asked.
While I have some thoughts (of course I do), I actually have a lot more questions.
First something I am quite sure of…
We are not going back to mission (or church) the way things were before. Clearly, there will be some churches that try to go back to doing what they have always done…but their potential impact within their community will be lessened.
Over the past year, we have, not only in church settings adjusted to new ways of working, interacting, and dealing with life in general.
While I’m pretty sure most of us will avoid Zoom as much as possible for the first few weeks when we are allowed to be with people again, it (or its next iteration) will be integrated into our lives going forward.
I am so excited to gather again with our faith community around a table, eating food, with not a screen in sight. At the same time, it is hard to underestimate the convenience of video conferencing when it comes to certain types of training or meetings. If I only have to head into a quiet room and can save 30 minutes or so of travel time before and after certain events, that makes them a lot more convenient.
If we view this past year as a time when we just did what we had to do until we could get back to normal…we are going to be out of sync with most people in our congregations and communities.
The video services churches have done have trained people to relate to their church in a different way. I do think the long-term (and probably shorter-term) impact of that is still to be determined, but we have al picked up some new habits and realised some new likes and dislikes. (I shared some concerns about live-streaming your services last spring)
One impact began to become evident last summer…(or just about 4-5 months into the lockdown) Barna conducted research that showed 1 in 3 people had already stopped attending their church’s video service. And it is the younger…and more accustomed to life online who have been more likely to drop out. (I don’t know what has happened since, but I’m guessing it is safe to assume the trend has continued rather than turned around. )
Here is what I am wondering.
For all those who stopped attending, what was their reasoning? The research didn’t dig into that. (My guess would be they missed the actual relationships, but it would only be my guess. But whatever video church was missing, it was enough to tune out.)
If my guess is correct, then perhaps the people who stayed haven’t missed the relationships as much.
So, will they come back? If you have live-streamed your Sunday worship and teaching, and people have interacted with you like they do any other YouTube video, that will change things. I have heard more than a few people comment that they like having church in their pyjamas.
So here’s a scenario. Once you can gather again, you decide to keep up the live stream, or the recorded video. But it turns out a certain percentage of your congregation stays home and watches online. So, you try to resolve the problem by no longer making the video available.
What do you think happens:
a) they decide to get up, get dressed, and join you in your building on Sundays…or
b) they find somebody else’s live stream and watch that instead.
I think when we are at a point of major transition, we all like to believe we are perfectly situated to move to the next phase. I think our emphasis on relationships and sitting around a table puts us in a great spot. But at the same time, I think we all may have a few more surprises headed our way.
Like I said, more questions than answers, but this is one of them.