Creatively Adapting In These Challenging Times
‘How did you actually grow your church during Covid-19?’
This is one of the questions many other pastors asked us in the beginning of 2021.
After one year of Covid-19, the number of volunteers and connect groups in our church and giving has doubled.
But how was this possible?
The easy answer would be that we put a lot of effort into making church happen in any way possible. Like most churches, we started online services. We held three drive-in cinema services. We organized a big open-air service in summer and tried to create some really special Easter and Christmas productions.
So, is the key to simply do as much as possible? Of course not.
Adapting to the circumstances of the time in order to grow your church means flexibility. We tried to hold this as one of our greatest values – especially in this Covid season. Flexible leadership means adapting to your circumstances quickly.
When the first lockdown in Germany occurred – we had less than 24 hours to set up the first online service our church had ever done. The question was never ‘should we hold a service?’ It was simply, ‘how can we make a service possible?’ So, we spontaneously booked a camera crew, and we recorded our first service and put it online.
Watching it today, it is far away from how we are doing it now, but it was the best we were able to produce at the time. It actually changed the way we thought about church! We tried to stop thinking about how we were used to doing church and focused on new ways of making church possible in this unfamiliar situation.
That is why we then asked a professional filmmaker to help us and give advice for our online services. Under their guidance, we quickly changed the setting from an ‘on stage’ service to a large industrial setting.
We tried to be flexible, and we tried to think outside the box. One day we heard that a drive-in cinema was planning to open in one of the cities in which we have a campus. I reached out immediately to see if it was possible to run a service there. It was! We could never have imagined the success of this service. We only planned to hold a one-off drive-in service but afterwards we decided to run some more.
We had hundreds of first-time visitors coming to those services and dozens of salvations every Sunday.
As a result of those events and our online service re-design, we had many volunteers starting to serve in our church. Many of them were the very professionals that we had asked for advice in the first place!
It was not actually the sermon or the way we worshipped, but the fact that we had been flexible, creative and forward thinking that made our church so attractive to them. Many had never been in church before and got saved during this season because they saw a group of believers that was so motivated to make church possible and to get the Gospel out there, even in unfamiliar circumstances.
Did everything always work out perfectly? Definitely not. Some things we tried out did not work at all, but to be flexible, to be creative, to adapt to the circumstances around you often means to try, fail and then try something else.
The message of hope remained the same, only the way of reaching our communities with the message changed in so many ways and so many times.
There was no ‘How to run church in a Global crisis seminar’ we could attend and there are many other things we as the Church might face in the future. Hopefully not on the scale of a global crisis, but there will be many future circumstances that require creativity, flexibility, and adaptability from us.
My biggest lesson as a leader in this season would be the following:
Be bold and try something.
We may be afraid that it might not work out but trust me, often we will be surprised by how God is using our effort to make things possible!
It does not have to be something the world has never seen before. It is mostly about embracing the situation and circumstances around you, being flexible and quick to react.
In German we have a saying: ‘The devil’s favourite furniture is the long bench’, which is a metaphor for procrastination. Often the Church’s biggest hinderance in adapting to circumstances is trying to wait it out.
So don’t wait – initiate!