4 Phase Response to COVID-19

by Dr. Tom Wood
President

I have talked to many pastors in various places (such as FL, GA, CA, MI, MA, UK) about their church’s response to the national disaster we are facing. As I have listened, I have discovered these four phases of church ministry in the COVID-monster. Well, three are happening right now, and I think we need to plan for a fourth phase.

FIRST PHASE

The first phase was the Shock/Crisis Phase. The normal, weekly church activities were shut down overnight. National orders came through that no one was to meet in large gatherings and weekly services, Sunday Schools, Kid’s programs, Youth events, and small home groups.

This one mandate put pastors/staffs into crisis mode. How do we get our services out this Sunday? Many had never used technology for services before, so they were challenged with online, Facebook, Zoom, Google? And how do we prepare for Live feed, or do we record services? How can we do women’s groups, small groups, prayer or kids ministry?

Everyone was scrambling in crisis mode for at least the first couple of weeks. On top of the scramble to get church online, they faced the challenge of “How do we pastor, care for the needy?” This is an ongoing challenge/question because people are sick and out of work as well. The financial crisis is beginning to have effect on church budgets (offerings are low).

SECOND PHASE

The second phase was the Adaptation Phase. Pastors and staffs began to adapt to the new Zoom church. They figured out how to get the services out to people. Obviously, the larger churches who had tech people and already did video or other online studies adapted quicker than the smaller ones. We are all learning how to do ministry from Facetime, Zoom rooms, Google hangouts, Instagram, and Facebook watch parties. Some churches are still learning to adapt in new ways.

THIRD PHASE

The third is the Innovation Phase. Pastors/leaders are beginning to think innovatively. Prayer meetings have started online in churches that never had them before. Many I have spoken to are having way more people watching services online than attended their church in past. One pastor said he has heard online watching is double the typical Sunday attendance. There are many innovations that we can capture and spread around. Prayer Current (home-based in Canada) reported on the increase of people looking for prayer and spiritual help. How will they innovate new ways to reach people if this goes on for another month?
God sure is busy.

FOURTH PHASE

We have not entered the fourth phase yet. I will call it the The Return, but to a New Frontier Phase. No matter when we are allowed to go back to church, we are all facing a new frontier--spiritually, economically, socially, etc. This COVID-monster may be a world-changing event that redirects the course of where Christianity will head in the next decade. Prayer may become a core of the new church in North America.

Christianity Today reported how thousands of people are seeking prayer and spirituality as never before. I read an article that one evangelical, bible believing church had 1 million viewers to their Easter Service, and 21,000 viewers clicked on “I received Christ today and want a Bible” button.
How will you prepare if your church has more people attending than before? What if 50-100 new people come in the next six months? What will you do with them? Will you simply try to stick them into your current structures? What happens if your budget does not pick back up, because of the unemployment rate?

Many leaders and ministries will need help to make sure they do not go back to business as usual. Right now is the best time to hire a Gospel Coach to help your ministry as you move into the new frontier.

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5 Comments


Robert Covington - April 21st, 2020 at 8:03am

Hey, some of us smaller churches adapted pretty quickly, too! :-)

Tom Wood - April 21st, 2020 at 9:57am

Robert. Thanks for responding and great to hear from you. How small is small? I am sure you provided your church with the technology they needed to get the message of the gospel out on the web. Would love to hear ideas of what happens next at your church.

Michael Stecher - April 21st, 2020 at 8:58am

Now is the time for church leadership to step up to prepare for phase 4 and let it not be a pastor-only responsibility.

Tom Wood - April 21st, 2020 at 10:00am

Michael.

i think you are absolutely correct. But perhaps with people now already helping their neighbors in ways we haven't in the past we are better prepared to receive others when they do come. I do think that all our churches need to have a path like "orientation" to church for those who are new. Kinda like freshman orientation at the university.

Jeb Gaither - April 21st, 2020 at 10:13am

Thank you Tim!