Tag Archives: church

COVID-19 Church Response: Phase Two

In a previous post, I wrote about an initial plan for the church to consider in their response to COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and its impact on the local church.  Now that we have moved past the initial phase (the easiest phase), I thought I would write a follow-up post as we prepare to enter into phase two of this.  

Church, please listen, this is our moment!

Online Pivot Next Steps

  • Another Impending Pivot – In the last week or two, churches have made an important pivot to exclusive online services and gatherings.  Good work, Church!  Let this be a reminder to us of how fast we can change when needed.  There are more pivots ahead.  One of them any day.  If you have moved your services to some form of online offering (pre-recorded or live-feed), there is an impeding pivot you need to consider and prepare for.  To “flatten the curve,” your jurisdiction will soon move to limit public gatherings to no more than 2-5 people (churches included).  Any medium to large size church is going to face a problem (they often take 10-20 people to produce their live-feed).  How will you pivot your online services to this reality?  Be thinking of this asap because this change is coming and coming soon!
  • Embrace Experimentation as Open Source – This is an exciting season for people with entrepreneurial giftings and inclinations.  But one thing I have noticed about myself and others with this inclination is that we are also prone to competitiveness.  This is a danger to the Kingdom!  As we explore and settle into our new online ministry landscape and build ministry structures for this new frontier, let’s share our designs, successes and failures.  This is not the time to hold trade secrets but the time to free trade ideas.  I am learning so much from my friend about ideas, ways of approaching problems, things that worked, things that failed, etc.  This is the season for cooperation over competition.
  • Create a Rhythm – Now that you have moved all your ministries online and have done some experimentation, I would argue that it is time to establish a sustainable rhythm for your church.  When we launched our online ministries, we went fast and hard.  This was intentional in our part (we wanted our people to know that even though we couldn’t meet physically, the church was still there for them), but now that we are launched, we are in a season of establishing a sustainable rhythm.
  • Where is the Laity? –  If you are like the church I lead, we launched our new ministry structure fast and did so as a staff team (it allowed for this), but the next step is to empower our volunteers (many of whom have more time than ever before) to take leadership in this area.  If our online presence reduces the role of volunteers, we have failed.  We failed because it is not our job as pastors (Ephesians 4:12) and also because it doesn’t leverage the democratizing power of the internet.
  • Reject Comparisons – If you are like me, you would have started to compare yourself and your church to others on Sunday.  We are all on display and it can be demoralizing.  This is a fool’s game!  The bad news is that there is always someone who is a better communicator than you, a church with better production value than you, a church with better music than you, etc.  The good news is that people, especially in this season of COVID-19, don’t care!  They know you, trust you and I believe this is the season of the shepherd pastor as opposed to the CEO pastor.  Therefore, do your best, avoid unnecessary barriers or distractions for people but, also, reject the need to compete with others and embrace the posture of the servant-hearted pastor who loves and cares for his/her sheep.  People will follow you if you do!
  • Celebrate Success – As you move online, you can begin to be demoralized.  We have great expectations and reality can have a way of confronting that.  For example, you host an online prayer meeting and only two people join.  You are disappointed, expecting more, but forgetting that you didn’t do that ministry before and, in reality, you just had three people gather for prayer that wouldn’t have before.  In addition, be honest about success, the matrixes have changed, and online analytics are confusing and deceptive (Not all video “views” are considered equal).  You are not comparing apples to apples, but apples to pomegranates, and pomegranates are a complicated fruit.
  • Find Your Bearings – The first phase of COVID-19 has been a season of so many pivots I’m starting to feel dizzy. As is the case with any dizziness, stop, fix your eyes on the constant (Jesus), and find your balance again. Remember: “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8)
  • Embrace Critical Reflection – In the coming days, I will be writing more about online ministry and the potential and perils it creates.  This is actually my area of academic specialty and I have written extensively about it (see my book, “Age of Kings: Pursuing God’s Heart in a Social Media World as an example).  I want to offer myself as a resource in the coming days to help us process this shift and all it will become (it has consequences and opportunities few people are considering as they implement with pragmatic panic).

Care Systems

If you have not worked on a building care system for your church to meet the COVID-19 pandemic, you need to be.  Drop what you are doing and get on this today!  In the coming weeks, people in your church and in your community will begin to get sick (and some will die) and your usual system and process for caring will buckle under the stress.  This is our moment, church, don’t think you will be able to casually walk into it, prepare and plan and do it today!  As an example, at Westlife, we have recently built two arms of care (congregation and community) that mirror each other but are scalable and robust enough to grow as need escalates.  Additionally, as you plan for this, consider the community God has placed your church in.  As a result, be open to the ideas of others and the leading of the Spirit and find creative and contextual ways to love and serve the community God has placed your church in.  Your context needs to be considered, but if you are relying on your existing systems to handle this, I plead with you to reconsider and get to work recruiting, planning and structuring care to meet the impending need.

Resources Triage

This is a challenge for every leader and this season will be one of the hardest to lead through.  The need will vastly exceed your resources!  Going to online services and the massive hit to the economy will impact your budget, you will need to plan and act accordingly by triaging financial resources.  If you are not preparing for this, you need to be.  How can you reallocate resources and be prepared to make tough decisions? 

Additionally, how will you triage human resources of volunteers and staff?  Some of them will get sick and do you have a plan for that?  You will also, statistically speaking, get sick at some point.  How will your church respond?  This should force every church to have some kind of leadership succession plan.  This is not a drill.  I am not being alarmist here.  You need to consider how you will lead your church and manage the limited resource at our disposal for their use in this time of extreme need.

Intentional Rest

Once your systems are in place, take intentional rest before the wave of COVID-19 infection hits in the coming days.  In the church I serve, our staff have been working long hours to prepare for the next phase of this pandemic and, as part of our response plan, over the next week or two will intentionally and strategically be taking needed rest to care for themselves and their families before we escalate care to meet the impending need.


I have said this to many of my friends and I want to communicate it here.  For many reasons (the least of which are mentioned above), this will be the toughest pastoral season of your ministry career.  Let’s be ready.  This is our moment.  That can seem overwhelming, but God’s promises are true.  The need is great, but our God is greater.  Let’s go leaders, it is time to lead our churches, pick up our spiritual armour and storm the gates of hell with faith, hope and love!

An Open Letter of Encouragement to Pastors of Small and Medium-Sized Churches

Dear Pastors of Small and Medium-Sized Churches,

Be of good courage!

In this season of social distancing, I know many of you were/are working furiously to find livestream and video conference options for the church(es) you serve.  You had to make a major shift when larger churches just had to pivot.  I want you to know that we saw/see that and want to say:  Thank you!  Well done!  We are proud of you!  Be encouraged!

A couple of words of encouragement as we enter this season…

First, don’t stress about finding the magic bullet of video software solutions.  There are a plethora of options and many companies have made them free for the next six months.  Find one you think will work and use it.  It will be ok!  As a friend of mine said recently, “Don’t let the great be the enemy of the good in these days.” Don’t fret over this.

Second, don’t get caught in the comparison game.  As the saying goes, “Comparison if the thief of joy.”  You will not compete with the megachurch productions you witnessed on your social media news feed last Sunday (although, even these will change with the CDC’s new suggested guidelines of “no more than 10 people per gathering”).  Because you know what?  I think this is the season for you and your pastoral leadership.  You know your church by name and by personal stories.  The months and years of your faithful personal connections have built pastoral trust and relationships.  This is exactly what people will need in this season.  In other words, you are uniquely gifted and primed for such a time as this.  Therefore, do your best to livestream and video conference (removing distractions of course) but do what you have always done, focus on faithfully loving and serving your people and community.  We are entering the season of the shepherd, not the CEO and you have all you need to love and care for your church and community. 

Be of good courage!

Your call is simple but more important than ever: Love your people.  Guide them pastorally.  Lead them courageously.  Reject comparison.  Practice compassion.

And, in all things, do NOT fear!  Jesus is with you and He will guide you.

In your corner,


A Church Technology Prediction: Screen Reversal

Step into almost all evangelical churches and a growing percentage of mainline and Catholic churches and you will see the use of the big screen(s). Video projection has become increasingly ubiquitous in worship services in ever expanding ways: utilized for words in worship songs, responsive readings, sermon graphics, multimedia clips, etc. Consider that in a few decades the church has moved from hymns to overhead projector to video projection.

The Church has embraced the First Screen (main video screen) as a key content delivery device and atmosphere creation tool. Since then, and over about the last five years, the second screen has emerged in society and the church has begun to take notice and adapt to it in worship. Through live tweeting, YouVersion and other tools, the second screen experience is growing and will continue to grow. As it does, new tools and apps will emerge to integrate this into the worship service.

In a conversation with friends, we stumbled upon what I think will be an inevitable shift in technology usage in church over the next several years. This shift is a screen reversal. Although I think that we will still have both first and second screens, the priority of these will reverse. The handheld screens (mobile devices) that are increasingly ubiquitous will become the primary screen in the worship service, holding the place Scripture is read, responsive readings are read, participation is engaged through social network features, and words for worship are projected. The new second screen will be the large projection screen(s) that will, where needed, show the video feed, video clip, and/or create atmosphere for the room.

The initial reaction to my hypothesis will probably be disbelief and/or a fear of increased individualism as people use their individual devices. However, consider how this is less like moving forward and more like moving backwards. Just as people would use paper notebooks to take notes, printed Bibles to read, and printed hymn books to sing, the individual devices will have similar functions but would also allow for social interaction and discussion through advanced social network platforms.

In the coming years, new apps (if I could design one I would because I can see huge future potential for it) will emerge that allows for LBMDs (Locally Broadcasted Mobile Displays – A phrase I just invented) to show song lyrics, images, Bible passages, take notes, and facilitate live interaction for those in attendance physically, and in some situations, virtually online.

There are always pros and cons to every technological change. The medium is the message and all media works us over completely (combining two quotes from Marshall McLuhan ~the great Canadian media theorist). I am not arguing for or against this screen reversal or, even, discussing the impact on the worship experience (positive or negative); I am simply highlighting the shift that is on the horizon as the first and second screen switch prevalence.