The Post-Covid impact on congregations, and their responses, is a topic of much discussion these days.
There is lots of pondering, articles—popular and scholarly—guesses, prognostication, and no lack of angst on that topic.
Prognostication is not my spiritual gift, and I think it’s too early to plot trends.
Clergy and congregations are still in the midst of living into their adaptive strategies and responses amid the crises and pressures of the current pandemic.
Some things we’ve observed can be clustered, and they interlock to some extent, and several can be categorized under “acute reactivity.”
- Political impact on congregational life: including polarization around issues and conflicting values
- Economic and financial impact: we’ve seen both positive and negative
- Congregational practices: including questions about what “corporate worship” is, rethinking assumptions about “community” (some churches have discovered they’ve expanded their reach through technologies and social media)
- Ministerial roles and functions: what does a pastor do? How should a pastor respond? How to interpret the Gospel message in the midst of a pandemic.
- Congregational vision and mission: Some churches are reaching out more, some are looking inward more. Some are expanding ecclesial responses to social issues they’ve previously ignored.
Some of these have offered opportunity for deeper theological reflection and clarity in churches.
For others, they are cause for acute reactivity that has resulted in conflicts—to the point of terminating pastoral leaders.
If I have to make a guess, I think one pattern we’ve seen from the past will remain true: we will see progress in some things while, at the same time, decline and regression in others; some congregations will thrive, many will not.
Leadership will be key for every success.
The only thing I can determine as certain is the significance of the influences of (1) leadership, and (2) context.
Each congregation will need to respond to post-COVID stressors, conditions and responses based on their context.
We’ve known that cookie-cutter ways of being church have not been viable for decades (though people still seek them).
That means the greatest resource congregations and their leaders need at this time are imagination, courage, and creativity.
Two programs offered by the Center for Lifelong Learning currently are helping clergy leaders explore and address these issues.
The reKindle Thriving Congregations initiative provides grants to congregations that want to engage in a project that addresses post-COVID challenges.
For those who’d rather shape their future than prognosticate. Applications will be accepted until April 30, 2021.
Leadership in Ministry is a clergy leadership development program for pastors and other religious professionals.
This peer-mentoring program focuses on helping leaders become more effective (and less stressed) across the span of the professional ministerial trajectory.
To learn how these programs can address the needs of your congregation, click here.
Israel Galindo is Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at the Columbia Theological Seminary. He directs the Pastoral Excellence Program at Columbia seminary. He is the author of the bestseller, The Hidden Lives of Congregations (Alban), Perspectives on Congregational Leadership (Educational Consultants), and A Family Genogram Workbook (Educational Consultants), with Elaine Boomer & Don Reagan, and Leadership in Ministry: Bowen Theory in the Congregational Context.
His books on education include Academic Leadership: Practical Wisdom for Deans and Administartors, Mastering the Art of Instruction,The Craft of Christian Teaching (Judson), How to be the Best Christian Study Group Leader (Judson), and Planning for Christian Education Formation (Chalice Press).