Three Realities for New Zealand Churches in Alert Level 2 and Beyond

8 May 2020
Mark Maney

Three Realities for New Zealand Churches in Alert Level 2 and Beyond

by | May 8, 2020

As New Zealand slowly begins to re-open, a question many churches will be asking is, “How do we approach ministry in Level 2 and beyond?”

It’s easy to be scared of change. But in reality, the NZ church has already proven that it is more than ready to adapt to changing circumstances. Think about how the NZ church has innovated over the last 60 days, we’ve gone from:

  • FROM meeting in-person, TO meeting online
  • FROM leading our ministry teams in-person, TO leading our teams remotely
  • FROM having a stable financial plan, TO our finances now all up in the air 
  • FROM having predictable staff roles, TO redeploying staff in new areas for which they were not trained
  • FROM having no previous idea how to do what we needed to do, TO now succeeding in making it all work 

With that in mind, I suggest there are three realities to now help the NZ church continue on the path of innovation, for the sake of more effectively reaching New Zealand with the Gospel.

1. Online ministry is here to stay

Most of the people we want to reach are now online. The younger the demographic, the more true that is. Furthermore, it appears that many churches are actually growing at the moment. The reasons for this are multi-faceted, but one key reason is that online church has a much lower barrier to entry then in-person church.

This is not only true for guests. Think about families with young children getting ready for church, or seniors who are more vulnerable, or people who are sick. Online ministry provides a way for people to be involved when in the past they wouldn’t have been able to.

At the same time, it should not be treated lightly.  Are you having a serious conversation about investing in new digital equipment? When adults join an online group, do you have a plan to help reduce the awkwardness and make them feel welcome? How might online group leaders take advantage of Zoom features like ‘Breakout Rooms’? How will people respond to the gospel if they are not at the church’s worship service?

2. While online ministry is here to stay, physical gatherings are the church’s calling

With all that said, it’s important to remember that physical in-person gathering is key to the church’s calling. In the New Testament the word for church (ekklesia) refers to how it is a gathering, a calling together. Moreover, God created an actual world, not a virtual world. God in Genesis declared that the actual world of creation is very good. God wants us to live in his good world, not just watch it on a screen. Resurrection, one of the central beliefs of Christianity, means the restoration of all things, not an escape to a non-temporal, non-corporal spiritual (virtual?) afterlife.

With that in mind, what are some questions that you should be asking before starting up your physical ministry? For starters, what adjustments will you make to the Lord’s Supper, baptisms, offering plate, meet and greet time, door greeting, or children’s ministry? How will you sanitize your building, before, after, and during church service? For example, should all doors be kept open to prevent spread of disease? How will you create a safe environment for those who are most vulnerable in your community? What about those who can’t meet physically but also don’t have the capability to meet online?

3. Churches need to help people make the transition from the online to in-person

Given that online ministry is here to stay, and yet we are called to physical in-person gathering, we need to carefully consider how we will move people from the relative comfort of the online experience to in-person encounters and fellowship.

Homegroups have always been a good stepping-stone to involvement in church life. It’s a smaller setting, and (at their best) are much less intimidating and much more welcoming. Here in New Zealand we will probably be limited to small gatherings for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, is it possible to encourage people to move homegroup from online to actual homes? Is it possible to have Sunday morning watch parties at different people’s homes?

There have been many times in the past where Christians could not gather in large groups, particularly in the early stages of the church. The outcome was a church body that exploded across the globe. This happened as a result of the intentional, meaningful fellowship and discipleship centred around the Risen Christ. There will be a strong desire to get back to normal. The danger is that we will re-embrace a model of ministry designed to reach a world that no longer exists. Let’s continue innovating and moving forward.

Some useful resources on this subject!

NZCN doesn’t necessarily endorse everything in them, but did pick up some good points from some of them

 

Churches sing ‘The Blessing’ over the UK’

An example of using technology and the internet to do mission.

The World Evangelical Alliance has put together a site with resources to help families, church leaders, national alliances, business leaders and health professionals. Check it out here >

The Opportune Time
Ps David Dishroon

Romans 13:11-14 encourages us, as it did the the Jews and Christians in Rome in the late 55 AD – early 57 AD, to consider the drastic changes to the world we live in as an opportune time to do something.

This message was shared as a devotional thought during one of our weekly Pray As One NZ online prayer gatherings taking place 8-9pm on MONDAYS.

Join the meeting from the website and look for updates on Facebook.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has created a global health crisis that has had a significant impact on the way we perceive our world and our everyday lives. This crisis has rapidly pushed us into the unknown and left many facing an uncertain future. However, it has been proven throughout history that New Zealand is no stranger to adversity. Time after time, New Zealanders have shown the ability to come together, with the desire to help one another demonstrating the resilience of the nation and this situation is no different.

This handbook aims to help with issues that have arisen during the Covid-19 crisis.

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