In my upcoming book (due out in late March), Being the Church in the Post-Pandemic World, I identified eight different game-changers for churches who want to be vital in the post-pandemic world.  One of those game-changers is how we shift relationally as the church.  This is part one of a three-part series on 15 relational shifts the vital churches need to makes in the post-pandemic world. 

  1. Shift from majority of energy and resources used on already gathered faith community to those yet to be gathered
  2. Shift from fear or denial of our mission to be in relationship with our neighbors to love, compassion, and empathy for our neighbors
  3. Shift from driving into our church on Sunday to being and living as part of the community surrounding the church facility seven days a week
  4. Shift from attractional (expecting the community to show up at the building on Sunday) to dispatched movement (disciples sent to share the Good News)
  5. Shift from program-driven to more intimate “doing life together” ministries

Shift 1 – Investing resources outside our gathered community

Think about the percentage of time (staff and congregation), building usage, budget, attention, and energy that is spent on the people who are already gathered as part of the church community.  My guess is that ninety percent or more is used on our current congregation leaving less than ten percent (typically I see 3-5%) of our resources being invested in our neighbors yet to be gathered/reached for Christ.  Think of what could be possible if we were to invest the majority of our resources in reaching new people!  

Shift 2 – Love, compassion, and empathy for our neighbors

To love our neighbors and demonstrate compassion and empathy would mean that we would have to first be in relationship with our neighbors around the church.  How are we intentionally investing in building relationships with our neighbors so that we can hear their stories, understand their fears and needs, and do life alongside them?  This is beyond providing a food pantry and collecting mittens.  This is about investing in people – eyeball to eyeball, heart to heart.

Shift 3 – Doing life in the mission field

In the typical American church (particularly urban and suburban), many church attenders used to live in the neighborhoods surrounding the church.  But over time, they have moved further out to newer homes, bigger homes, better schools, etc.  Therefore, those attending the church for an hour or two on Sunday no longer have any connection (and thus no understanding of current reality) to the neighborhood.  The post pandemic church will be a church that is deeply and relationally connected to their neighbors.  This is done best by living in the neighborhood and investing in it once again doing life with the neighbors. 

Shift 4 – Becoming a sent and equipped movement

For many decades the church was the benefactor of being a cultural phenomenon.  The culture used to be church centric so therefore people were attracted to the church as part of a cultural norm.  Society basically shut down on Sunday to allow and respect this cultural norm to carry out.  Over time, culture has shifted away from being church-centric.  The church is now counter-cultural.  More people don’t affiliate with a faith community than do.  The post pandemic church must finally rid ourselves of the notion that we can still rely on the attractional church model to prevail.  The church is to equip and send people: train them up as disciples and send them out to reach new disciples.

Shift 5 – Relationally driven

Similar to Shift 3, we see being a disciple, a follower of Christ, as an honor and responsibility.  We follow Jesus’ lead and walk alongside people in life.  Jesus didn’t stay in the Temple and create the perfect curriculum for people to come and attend.  Instead, Jesus was out and about among the people, walking alongside them in life, teaching, mentoring, telling stories and listening to stories. 

Watch next week for five additional relational shifts the vital post-pandemic church will make!