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4 Ways COVID-19 Will Have a Lasting Impact on Churches

Shelter-in-place orders and social distancing recommendations aren’t going to last forever. But whatever the timeline looks like for returning to in-person services and reopening local businesses, some things are never going to be the same.

Many churches will have undoubtedly lost members to the pandemic and the innumerable tragedies that don’t stop just because everything else shuts down. Many congregants will have lost jobs, homes, and financial stability. 

But not all of the changes we’re going to see are negative. In times of crisis, people often make choices that carry on into the “new normal” afterward. Here are some of the ways we can expect this pandemic—and our country’s response to it—to permanently change U.S. churches.

1. Congregants will be more comfortable with digital options 

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest reasons many churches held off on adopting digital ministry solutions was that they didn’t think their congregants were up to the challenge of learning new technology. Despite the fact that seniors were already using tech, church leaders worried that their elderly congregants in particular wouldn’t be willing or able to learn how to give online, join a livestream, or participate through an app.

This season has obviously proven that church members of all ages and abilities are willing to digitally participate in church. And they didn’t just try livestreaming, digital giving, and church apps once. Your church members have had weeks of practice in an environment where these tools were the only way to stay connected. They’ve had time to gain confidence in their abilities and in the digital solutions your church offers.

The next time someone can’t worship in person or pass the plate, they’ll know they have other options.

2. More churches are going to be equipped for digital ministry

Months ago, many churches still didn’t offer or emphasize digital giving, livestreaming, and other basic church tech. Now these digital solutions are essential to your ministry. This year most churches experienced their first—and hopefully only—Easter celebration with empty pews. 

During this season a lot of churches saw for the first time that all this church tech has always been about making their ministry accessible to people who can’t be there in person. And while we will eventually be able to gather in person again, every week there are countless reasons why individuals can’t attend. 

Illness, injuries, transportation issues, family emergencies, and other challenges aren’t going to go away when the pandemic is over, and they will continue to be barriers to participation. But fewer churches are going to let those barriers get in the way of their ministries.

3. Some churches will be seen as leaders in their communities

Every state and city has handled the COVID-19 pandemic a little differently. In some communities there was a leadership vacuum where no one wanted to take a definitive stance on how life should change to slow the spread. This gave CEOs, executives, and church leaders an opportunity to showcase their own leadership and make decisions on behalf of their communities.

Whether your church was one of the first to switch to online-only services, helped local leaders solve problems in your community, or simply provided a consistent voice of reason during the crisis, the choices you’ve made during this time may have shifted the way other leaders and non-Christian community members perceive your church.

4. Some new ministries and tactics are going to continue

When in-person church gatherings weren’t an option and people took steps to avoid group settings, it forced churches to improvise. Some churches found valuable new ways to serve their communities in the midst of crisis. These don’t have to stop when the crisis ends. 

Many church members are seeking out opportunities to help the vulnerable and less fortunate in ways they could have been doing all along. They’re discovering generosity and growing in their understanding of what it means to live out the gospel. You can encourage this to become a regular part of their lives.