This blog post written by the Rev. Gar Demo is a result of Leaders for Hybrid Futures, a community of learning and practice created by Rev. Tim Schenck and Learning Forte’s CEO, Rev. Stacy Williams-Duncan, to reflect on and experiment with hybrid ministry. This innovative program is a partnership with LEAD, TX, and Learning Forte’s Digital Ministry Initiative and is funded by a leadership grant from Trinity Church, Wall Street.
What just happened? Congregations are in various stages of re-opening, gathering community momentum, and having community engagement. Covid is still with us, but we seem to be in a different phase. We are anxious, joyful, grieved, relieved, frustrated, and processing the many emotions and realities of the last two years. Ministries may look radically different, and the forms of worship and gathering have changed with many new modalities available.
Take a deep breath and get ready to do some processing. In terms of our leadership around digital/hybrid ministry, our congregations may be asking questions about the changes made in response to the pandemic.
It might be worth repeating these wise words from Douglas Adams, “Don’t panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.”
Questions, resistance to the new ways of doing things, and temptations to abandon the changes and tools are all a part of the process. Please don’t panic. Effective and successful change management follows a pretty regular pattern: preparation, visioning, implementation, embedding, and analysis/review. When change happens during a crisis, this process is out of order, which can cause later disruption when the emergency has passed.
We have the chance to take a few steps back in our congregations and ask some good questions about where we go next. What we tried during the crisis around digital ministry was an experiment in innovation. As we move into a new phase, we must keep learning and processing. In the coming months we will do the kind of work that will help us find the path.
Here are some questions to think about.
- Have you allowed yourself to ask what the right choice NOW for streaming and hybrid forms?
- Are there ministries or other offerings that should NOT be digital?
- Where are your efforts and resources best placed? What can you do well with the resources you have?
- How will digital ministry impact what it means to be a “member” of the church?
- Who is paying attention to your digital community? Who needs to be involved in this ministry? How can others use their gifts?
- What new things are emerging?
- How are your congregants utilizing digital opportunities? How is this impacting their spiritual lives? Discipleship? Connection? Engagement? Relationship to Jesus?
- How have digital ministries lowered the threshold for participation? Inclusion of the disabled? Access to the community?
- How is God using digital ministry to further the kingdom?
- What about this digital world is sacramental for us?
- How is God working through the outward/visible/tangible?
- What are the inward graces that come from a robust digital presence?
- How is the Spirit working through this medium?
Questions like these are critical to ask as digital ministry innovations are further incorporated and embedded into your church culture. Pushback and even stepping away from digital offerings are natural. The hard work of leadership is finding the road map. Take a risk, do some listening, ask some questions, and even challenge your congregation to define and refine the next phase of Hybrid Ministry in your context. Where does your digital roadmap lead?
The Rev Canon Gar Demo serves a suburban church in the Kansas City region. He loves to find new ways of being a community of disciples. He serves as Rector of St. Thomas the Apostle in Overland Park and as Canon for Congregational Mission in the Diocese of Kansas.