New Ways to Be the Church – #2

Everyone is wondering what to do post-pandemic: How to be church in authentic and “effective” ways. How to do youth ministry that attracts teenagers, supports families, and maybe even develops faith. How to continue caring for those who have stuck with the church through the pandemic (and the years of decline preceding it) and at the same time how to reach out with care and justice to neighbors, near and far, who have never participated in a single churchy thing, but who are hungering and thirsting.

A lot of church leaders are hearing a new call and/or looking for inspiration and wisdom, but most of us instinctually appreciate that there is not going to be a cookie cutter answer that will fit every congregation in every community.

Here are some Great Ideas for moving toward a joyful and hopeful future.

First, let your Littles inspire every generation to embrace transformation and change by reading Is Was (Atheneum) and/or Bella’s Recipe for Success (Beaming) together – in worship, study, Sunday school, committees, boards, etc. Change is essential for creation and life; resistance makes the transformation painful while embrace makes the transformation beautiful! And embrace is only and best-ly possible when every generation is a part of it.

Second equip leaders of all ages for potentially challenging conversations – and get them excited about the opportunities they present:

Build congregational excitement (Stay Awake!), develop awareness (Everybody’s Chains Came Off), and invite other voices into the conversation (Believe Jesus) with our Summer Worship Series (read the description so those parentheses make sense!). The theme of Liberation is borne out in atypical ways for two big reasons:

  • First, everyone’s going to have to learn how to do hybrid worship; here’s a chance to explore what’s possible but let us take the blame for anything that “doesn’t work” in your setting.
  • Second, the musical styles, Spoken Word, and videos featuring Black artists may cause some discomfort. Take this opportunity to let your congregation authentically hear Black voices, experience a bit of Black culture, become aware of a fusion of Black art forms – and maybe open folx up to exploring and experiencing greater diversity in future. Let the discomfort be on purpose: feel it, discuss it, wonder ‘Why’ about it. And then try the next one and the next one. And see if some of your young folx or some people of color or thoughtful, open souls of all ages and backgrounds don’t start expressing some interest, wonder, hope, or even enthusiasm for these different forms of expression! Try it, you’ll like it!

Inspired by the three services, invite community-wide discernment of God’s renewed purpose for planting you where you are. For General Innovativeness see:

Approach the post-pandemic world with greater intentionality with:

Get to know your community: SHARE STORIES!!

Have a giant community-wide Story Telling Spree!! (I.e., invite every spiritual community, everyone from schools, the whole business community, every family in all of your families’ neighborhoods: bring everyone!)

Through the stories, discover who you are as a community:

  • What are your demographics?
  • What is the local history and trajectory?
  • What are the local issues, needs, and treasures?
  • What gifts does your congregation bring to bear in your context?
  • See our Ground Stories ideas for further inspiration!

Grounded in knowledge about, awareness of, and compassion for the surrounding community, let prayer guide your action.

Fr. Richard Rohr’s Sermon on the Mount week included prophetic voices from around the world encouraging us to take Jesus’ call to love, compassion, and justice very seriously. Pair this series of reflections with Progressive Christianity’s podcast, Heresy Is Good, for some powerful conversations on confronting the “hatred and intolerance” of the Evangelical Right – or encountering division or resistance to love and justice from any corner of your community.

Now you’ve found a new Vision and Mission, members are re-inspired and re-energized, and you’ve started making relationships with the broader community. Develop those networks, discover a plethora of new gifts and resources, establish solid working relationships with other organizations and individuals, go meet the broken and Risen Christ in the vulnerable and wounded neighbors around you – and BE CHURCH!!!