This past Tuesday I sat in on the first Zoom class in the course, “How to be a Hybrid Church,” offered by the Synod of the Sun. We talked about lots of interesting things related to Hybrid Church – statistics, reports, experiences, hopes, fears. If you are unclear as to what Hybrid Church means in this situation, it means a church that has both a physical presence (worship in-person on Sunday morning, in-person gatherings for bible study and mission activities – all of the things we traditionally associated with church life for the past 50 years!), AND an online presence (worship available on a website or a streaming service like YouTube, posts on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram and TikTok, enrichment and learning opportunities offered through Zoom or Teams or other collaborative software programs).
Of course, some churches were doing all of this way before the pandemic started. But every church had to navigate this new territory and new identity in some form or fashion over the last 18 months if we still wanted to be engaged with one another. And every church has done the best they could figure out, including PCLT! But now, moving forward, each church has to ask, “What kind of church will we be now, and in the future? Will we go back to the way it used to be? Or is our online presence here to stay? And if it is here to stay, are we engaging online in the best way possible for us, in the way that is most faithful to our calling?”
These are big important questions, and they won’t be answered quickly. Two ‘take-away’ statements came out of Tuesday’s class for me:
- “While most church-going Americans want to return to in-person worship and other programs, they also found major benefits to online worship and they see a hybrid future coming.” A vibrant church now and in the future will be a ‘both/and’ congregation, offering people a variety of ways to engage, both in-person and online.
- “A hybrid church must learn to be relational instead of merely invitational, prioritizing people over programs and spiritual growth over institutional growth.” Our congregation is very relational in person, but how can we learn to be more relational online and through social media, in Zoom meetings, and on our website?
Isaiah 43:19 says, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” It may feel like we have been wandering in the wilderness, walking through the desert, these past 18 months. But God promises to do new things in the wilderness and provide everything we need in order to thrive in the desert!
Let’s keep our eyes open for the new things that God is doing with PCLT!