It seems like every Monday since March, a new message presents itself as a theme for the week. Depending on where we focus our attention, this message might come from the news, social media, or from God’s Word (if we’re really paying attention).
At the onset of the pandemic, some familiar messages you probably heard included: Hunker down and stay safe at home. Flatten that curve. Wear a mask.
As the pandemic set in as a seemingly short-term reality, our influencers—whether actual, real-life figures in our lives or social media personalities—told us: Make the most of this time at home. Let’s bake bread and plant a garden. Or, Virtual church and Sunday School are great!
Now, we’re hearing: We need to watch and wait to see how this thing plays out. The new normal will be different for all of us.
As a mom of three teens and a ministry leader who oversees LifeWay Kids, these messages, at times, have been confusing and nearly paralyzing.
My family lives in a school district that has deemed it unsafe to go to school in person, so all of my kids are doing virtual school indefinitely. Yet, other schools within a stone’s throw are going back. This is difficult in a household with two working parents and three kids who developmentally need to be in community and engage in face-to-face learning.
However, I’ve challenged myself to shake off this “watch and wait” message until things seem to be normal. This would be a huge mistake if I chose to persist in this type of mindset since my children’s education is at stake.
We must move through this pandemic—since there’s no way around it. And by “we,” I don’t just mean school parents. I’m talking about the Church. Just as our children’s education is at stake if we take a passive approach, their discipleship is in grave danger if we sit on our hands until things get better. It’s mission-critical that we alter our long-term strategy.
While it was difficult for all of us who love ministry to shift our thinking, I was blown away watching churches across the country do ministry in a different way that made sense in their context.
For example, this summer I witnessed an incredible amount of creativity go into producing Vacation Bible School for kids and families—even if it meant never stepping inside the church’s doors.
I saw take-home kits being delivered or distributed for families to do at home, backyard clubs for neighborhoods to do VBS together, and even drive-in VBS in parking lots! The list goes on—including completely virtual VBS and socially distanced VBS in parks and fields.
The Lord is using these stories and learning in my own life as a mom and leader. While my instinct is to hold my breath and wait for this pandemic to pass, I’ve been inspired instead to adopt a new message: The ministry must go on.
Just like our school-age kids can’t stop their education, our churches cannot stop ministry from continuing. It would be detrimental to my kids academically if we stopped school (even if virtual), just like it would be devastating to church kids and teens spiritually if we gave up on ministry.
We have a lot to learn from the VBS leaders and workers who pushed through obstacles and found a way to put on the arguably most important week of the church calendar. So, then, how do we fan the flame and do weekly ministry on a regular basis for our kids, students and families?
The ministry must go on. We can’t stop, wait and watch anymore. We can’t freeze or hold our breath until “normal” as we once knew it returns. It’s time to push forward in new and creative ways.
If you’re frustrated because you simply don’t know how to move forward in ministry with so many constraints, let me challenge and encourage you in your leadership. No one understands your ministry context the way you do. There are many things to consider as you re-open and gather again, perhaps even using a phased approach depending on statistics and seating capacity.
The ministry must go on. Our kids, teens and families need us now more than ever to help equip them to disciple their kids.
The role of the church is to partner with the home to make the gospel known. Though the world may seem unknown and uncertain, let’s pick up where we left off, turn the figurative lights back on, swing open the virtual doors, and invite everyone back—even if they return from a social distance.
The time is now. The ministry must go on.