Today’s COVID-19 setbacks may be tomorrow’s shocks. Like Lazarus coming out of the tomb (cf. John 11:1-45), life will be different when we come out of our homes.
So how do we prepare ourselves for what’s to come? The prophet says, “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” Isaiah 43:19. Note the phrase “doing a new thing.” On the backend of COVID-19, significant change will occur – our world will never be the same again.
We will change how we live:
Values and habits will adjust. There’ll be a new appreciation for human touch for some people, and a fear of infection limiting in-person interactions for others. More people will work from home and the development of online technologies supporting online work will accelerate. Full or partial homeschooling and distance learning will become more common. Virtual reality and telehealth will take-off. There will be a revived appreciation for the outdoors. People will add walk routines in place of the daily commute. And, there’ll be an increase in business being conducted virtually.
We will change how we do ministry:
Churches will have to adapt to endure. New pathways of discourse and participation will become commonplace. Now that we’ve discovered that some of the things we thought were crucial for the institutional church were actually subsidiary or even detrimental, we’ll explore online options at an accelerated rate. Zoom and YouTube have given us a taste of church meetings without having to leave home; more people will sample sermons and ministry resources from afar. And, some will ask why we need church buildings or full-time vocational pastors.
We will change how we interact with children:
If we learn the deeper lessons from the lockdown and not just the mechanics of new ways to do children’s ministry, then we’ll develop a braver and broader approach to connecting children with Jesus and His Story. The wider approach will pay more attention to the importance of faith @ home and equipping parents as the primary disciple-makers. Because children will spend more time at home, children’s ministry will become less programmatic and more relational. To this end, the role of the children’s pastor will increasingly change to the role of a family worker. There will also be increased use of online systems and communications for teaching and resourcing the family.
How we change will depend on how we see ourselves now:
The Chinese philosopher, Confucius said, “Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.” Unfortunately, there’ll be people who’ll try to resist change. Ignoring what happened during the quarantine, they’ll continue doing things the way they were always done. On the other hand, there’ll be people who’ll hit the reset button. The reset, if churches get their theology right, will be the home becoming the hub of faith. Families will become better prepared to connect with God’s Word, cultivate faith conversations, and pray.
We can’t escape change:
The pandemic will be a catalyst for permanent change. After COVID-19 we’ll update the conceptual foundations of our lives and communities. As the place for faith formation shifts from @church to @home, there’ll be challenges to surmount. “Doing faith at home,” says Pastor Mark Holmen, “will be awkward and require ongoing effort.” Parents will need to be trained, resourced, and technologically equipped (cf. Proverbs 24:3-4). A single approach won’t work for everyone. According to Rick Chromey, a professor of family ministry, “Personal, individualized, and ‘custom’ learning will spell the end of one-size-fits-all Sunday school lessons.”
Going deeper and further:
Now that people are recognizing we live in a world with limitations and exist for something more than work, they’ll rethink their foundations and re-orientate their relationships. Feeling safer with more relational distance, we’ll improve at being alone together and together alone. The change will prompt us to explore new forms of discourse and ask more questions. One of the big questions from children and adults will be, “What really matters?” As people look for better and more resilient versions of themselves, Christians will have opportunities to invite and include; to share with others how only Jesus Christ can truly meet our need for intimacy and interdependence in an insecure world.
We can start praying now; that “all the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him” Psalm 22:27.
Please comment. What are your thoughts about what’s to come? My thoughts are informed by what I think God is revealing during the pandemic and from my observations in a North American context. What will the new normal for children’s ministry be in Europe, Africa, Asia, South America, Oceania and the Caribbean?
© Scripture Union, 2020