The North Alabama Conference leadership team continues to focus on “pivoting” as we respond to COVID-19 and racism. As a part of this ongoing work, we recently identified three understandings informing our priorities and strategies for this next season of ministry together.
Understanding 1: Doing ministry in today’s ever-evolving context creates anxiety and opportunity. Deep change is only possible where leaders draw strength and guidance from our relationship with Christ.
This first understanding describes the opportunity as well as the challenge that clergy and lay leadership are experiencing in this fast-paced and ever-changing environment. Here is an example. On March 1 of this year about 95 of our churches had an online presence. Within three months, about 330 of our congregations did. Currently, about 390 of our churches offer online worship. This is an amazing pivot producing both the opportunity of a new venue for many of our churches and the challenge of providing a quality weekly online service.
Such a pivot is only sustainable as leaders draw strength and guidance from our Savior Jesus Christ. Paul said it well in Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
I am experiencing a deepened desire for reflection through journaling during this time of pandemic and national unrest. I wonder, what holy habits you might be feeling drawn to add to your daily life in Christ to give you additional strength and focus for the challenges of coming weeks and months? As we pivot, I encourage each of us to lean into our relationship with Jesus every step of the way.
Understanding 2: Effective ministry will require innovation, experimentation and implementation of new strategies for church development and growth.
Now is the time to experiment in our strategies for church development and growth in the North Alabama Conference. Ideally, we learn from these experiments — even and perhaps especially when they fail to produce the results we anticipate. What we learn moves us closer to reaching our goals.
The Conference leadership team has several experiments underway which we will share in future Saturday morning videos. We invite you to also try new strategies for church development and growth and in response to COVID-19 and racism. For instance, with whom might you initiate a conversation about dismantling racism? What new idea for sharing Christ in your community could you test with a church leader?
Understanding 3: Churches will evolve into numerous expressions, utilize new metrics, incorporate new methods of leader deployment, and develop a new understanding of ecclesiology.
On one hand, the “why” of the church (vision and mission) has not changed as a result of COVID-19 and the movement to dismantle racism. On the other hand, the “how” (strategies and timelines) is dramatically different than it was six months ago.
For example, churches are learning ways to measure not only the attendance but also the engagement of persons in online worship. Congregations are having deep conversations about racism. Local church leaders are having discussions about what it means to be the church in a post-COVID-19 world. Some previously uninvolved laypersons are stepping up to assume pastoral, technological, organizational and other roles that maximize their gifts and graces.
The District Superintendents and I would love to hear about new ways you are pivoting in response to racism and COVID-19. How are you involving new persons in ministry and service during this time? What new ministry ventures are you testing in your congregation? What conversations are you having about racism and community tensions?
We have an incredible opportunity to pivot in response to COVID-19 and racism. Drawing strength from Christ, experimenting with new strategies for congregational development and growth and being the church are foundational understandings for doing so in effective and meaningful ways.
As always, it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference