As we enter the season of Advent, the unexpected year we’ve had defines this season much more than just the time that leads up to the Nativity of Christ. For this year in particular, Advent and the Gospel will be a time that will bring light amidst the darkness of 2020.
We had the opportunity to chat with Aimee Tucker, Community Life & Mission Pastor of Vineyard Church of Hyde Park in Chicago, Illinois, and learn about some of the ways her and her team have had to creatively problem solve amid the year’s challenges.
Pre-COVID, Vineyard Church of Hyde Park served an average of 200 people per weekend. But now, Pastor Aimee Tucker explains how they are using this time to not only stay connected with their people, but to continue engaging and serving them during the holiday season, despite how different the Advent season may look this year.
How are you keeping members engaged?
Tucker: We focus heavily on life groups and we’ve tried to double down in the amount of offerings this past fall. We’ve offered a wider variety of things like smaller groups and connection points, which have proven to be very important right now, since things like watching a service on the screen can feel so impersonal. As we meet on Zoom, we are now trying to make this a catchall. We’re cleaning up our data to see who is a member of the church but not participating in a life group, then reaching out and inviting them to join.
Christ is on the throne and intercedes on our behalf, and we struggle with the current realities but still trust in Him. Vineyard Church is adapting and trying new things. It’s not perfect, but it is filtered through God’s love.
What are you most excited about heading into the holidays?
Tucker: We love the stories around Advent and the Good News of Jesus’ coming. This year it is so important to make space for people to be able to connect, considering the times we are currently living in.
Even though they’ve pivoted to strictly online services from mid-March to the end of summer, and making small outdoor services available until mid-November, Vineyard Church will be going back to online services, as the holidays are just around the corner. They won’t let the pandemic stop them from celebrating the birth of Christ. And instead they’ve been brainstorming ways that will strive for connection with their congregation.
What do you think Christmas service is going to look like this year?
Tucker: We’re really trying to figure that out. At our staff meetings, we needed to figure out what we’ll be doing from mid-November to the end of the year. We want to do it well, but we know it’s not going to be ideal no matter how you slice it. We’re trying to think creatively and keep people engaged through a variety of options.
With the holiday season also comes the outlook for the new year. And Vineyard Church sees 2021 as an opportunity to lean into their creativity. Their positive attitude makes the future look bright, not dim. Just like we look for Christ’s return, Vineyard Church is looking to make the most out of 2021.
What are you most excited about and what are your concerns moving into 2021?
Tucker: This feels like a moment of opportunity to lean into creativity and it seems to be a big catalyst for change – in a positive way. We’re thinking outside of the box on how to connect with people and engaging in different ways. It’s encouraging to know that there ARE people out there and people to connect with. For example, we had someone checking out our church online, but then COVID hit, but she continued to plug in online and she was excited to attend our small outdoors services.
It’s important that we take a tip from Vineyard Church and look at the current situation we are all living in as not a disadvantage, but an opportunity to enter this holiday season by adapting, trying new things, being creative, and providing pathways for engagement despite how different they may have may look from years prior.