Three years ago, if you had asked me if my church would consider worshipping online, I would have said, “I can’t imagine that.”
We were a small liturgical worship community grounded in the reading of Scripture, prayer, and the classical music tradition. We read Scripture and sang songs from the liturgical booklet that our worship team put together each week, printed, stapled, and then handed out to everyone on Sunday mornings. There was no screen at the front of our worship space for song lyrics or sermon slides. Our focal point was the cross—crafted with great respect and care out of yellow cedar by a skilled carver in the Stó:lõ tradition. The church was up close and personal with no apparent desire to expand their use of technology.
Today we are still a small liturgical worship community, but our use of technology has changed.
Now on Sunday mornings we have a hybrid worship service both in person and on Zoom (which is often lovingly referred to as our back row). During times of congregational sharing, we hear from those in our physical worship space and those online. People serve as Scripture readers and speakers both in person and online.
During the pandemic, I started preparing Power Point slides to go with my sermons as I did in my previous church. Now I do that for each of my sermons, and the slides are shared on Zoom and also projected on the wall beside the cross at the front of our worship space. What I wouldn’t have imagined three years ago has become our reality.
I can’t say that the church went through a deliberate process to reimagine ministry in these ways. Perhaps in our case it’s more that the pandemic reimagined us. We were taken to a place that we did not imagine for ourselves. Ministry became different for us, and we went with the changes.
When we started worshipping again in person, we continued with Zoom which allowed people to return to in-person worship at their own pace. Some remain online due to mobility or other issues that keep them at home. Some live at a distance too far to commute. Some mainly worship in person, but connect online when they’re out of town, or getting over covid, or recovering from surgery. One Sunday on Zoom we had two people in Australia (very early Monday morning their time), one person who was travelling in France (Sunday evening her time), with the rest of us locally on Pacific Time. Three years ago, I wouldn’t have imagined that. But it was a beautiful reminder of the world-wide body of Christ, and to my mind, it’s also a beautiful example of ministry reimagined.
At the AMBS Pastors and Leaders Conference on Reimagining Ministry next month, I’ll have two teaching sessions:
- The first focused on what we can learn from Jesus—how he was both grounded and engaged in ongoing ministry imagined and reimagined.
- And the second focused on what we can learn from Elijah and his experience of burning out, hitting bottom, and reimagining a new way forward.
As part of the conference there will also be plenty of time for personal reflection, group discussion, and much more. For more about the conference and to register, please see AMBS Pastors & Leaders Conference. I’d love to have you join us!
For more encouragement and resources on doing ministry better: