1. Fragmentation will hinder recovery for churches.
Our churches need recovery in 2022 but it will not be like before. The church has endured such division since March of 2020. The causes of the divisions have surprised me. I never dreamed that some would trumpet such strong venomous words at fellow believers over masks and vaccines to save lives and protect children during a global pandemic. But it is and continues to happen. Even the words I just typed may provoke strife. I believe that it will be a slow healing process if this pandemic does begin to go away.
I have also been surprised at the reactions to the racial and political divisions. I guess that I was naive about it. For some, the evangelical church in America, including the Southern Baptist Convention, belongs in the trash heap. Trust seems so out of reach. For others, brothers and sisters are now the real obstacles for revival and healing in the nation because of their cries for justice and equality. The political continues to frame this debate in the churches resulting in polarization and strife.
When we all get back together, there will be a great shuffling of the saints.
2. Pastors won’t just press on
This season has devastated the caregiving people in our communities. We have four funerals within seven days. The morgues are full. The funeral directors are overwhelmed. Our nurses and medical professionals, educators, counselors, and pastors have witnessed things that you simply do not forget. Yesterday, I spoke with a young mother of three who was struggling to breathe after 23 days in the hospital. I walked into a local ER to see a family whose mom had just died of Covid, and the waiting room had been converted to treatment rooms. One of our teachers spent 50 days on a ventilator. Every pastor in America has helped dry the tears while in fear of their own lives while members fight over the mask and the vaccine. People have not been themselves and some have taken it out on their pastors. Maybe it is just me, but I am scared a bit. Many of my brothers in the pastorate have been sick and in the hospital.
Our lives are intertwined with so many people. Our hearts have been in crisis mode since March of 2020.
What will endure after this season fades? I do not know. But I am certain that it will be hard to move forward without significant baggage to work through and work out. Soul care for the pastor will be paramount in 2022.
3. Online church will redefine metrics and participation in church
Church community will transition to both in-person and online in virtually (pardon the pun) every area. Families, businesses, and now churches will be a hybrid of the two. Churches that adjust will serve their people. Those who refuse will serve people who only want to participate in person. Most content delivery will occur online instead of in person. Blogs, podcasts, video training, and interactive virtual discipleship will dominate next year’s messaging trends.
4. Churches will not be able to rely upon the older generation as before.
Those over 65 have been hit the hardest through this season. These saints have volunteered more than others in the church. These hours will be greatly diminished after the pandemic. Attendees will trend much younger than pre-pandemic days. It will mean hard adjustments and fewer resources. It will also cause churches to prioritize recruiting, developing, and deploying younger members while changing some serving patterns to accommodate.
5. Ministry will shift to relational driven models from attractional driven models.
The pandemic has prohibited the attractional model. Small groups and relational-based ministries have been able to adjust and continue through the struggle. Churches will emerge with a focus on these models in a greater way. I would expect a shift in resources from attractional in-person models to online and relational models in every church. Smaller rural relational churches will recover much faster than urban attractional churches. Urban and suburban attractional churches will pivot to a stronger emphasis and priority on becoming relational, interconnected, and group-driven.
6. Small children and their families will feel this for many years.
Our school-age kids between the ages of 4-6 and have had very little playtime with one another over the last year and a half. I hear them talking about “getting the Covid.” Some wear masks when there is no need. They are behaving differently than previous generations toward each other. I am no expert, but I can see that they have been affected. I remember how the depression generation was forever shaped by those years of scarcity. As we emerge, I believe that we will find unique ways to minister to these families.