Now that we are over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a better idea of what church looks like in the “new normal.” While we still long for a return to the way things used to be, we also need to adapt to changing times. Here are a few church trends we’ll likely see in 2021.
Smaller Worship Groups
Due to COVID, in-person worship groups will likely remain small and socially distanced. We may see churches downsizing their buildings in the near future if attendance remains lower than pre-pandemic levels. Rather than lamenting these changes, pastors and church leaders should be prepared to make the most of the situation. Watch your finances closely and continually evaluate whether a smaller building is necessary.
Merging of Online and In-Person Communities
The in-person worship community will begin to merge seamlessly with the online community as virtual worship becomes the norm. Pastors will start to modify their message to appeal to all viewers – whether in the building or online, watching on Sunday or on another day. We will likely see more virtual events take the place of in-person ones. At the very least, online events will complement the in-person activities.
Distanced Seating Arrangements
Even though we’re over a year into the pandemic, the threat from the virus remains. Distanced seating arrangements will continue to be the norm in sanctuaries, classrooms, and other church spaces. Churches may switch out pews for flexible chairs to make it easier to adapt seating arrangements for social distancing.
Fewer Church Staff, More Volunteers
A sad side effect of the pandemic has been financial struggles for many churches. Unfortunately, a future trend we will likely see is fewer full-time church staff and more programs dependent on volunteers. The bright side to this is that it gives church members more opportunities to get involved and serve the community.
Greater Need for Community Outreach
From physical illness and struggles with mental health to financial setbacks, many people are still suffering from the pandemic. This is the perfect time for churches to step up and do what they’ve always done – serve the community. There will be a greater need for community outreach than ever. People need God’s hope and they need us to be Christ’s hands and feet.
Increased Focus on Eternal Life
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s a renewed sense of how fragile earthly life is. Perhaps the most positive thing to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic will be an increased focus on God’s Kingdom. Despite all the changes happening to the church in 2021, God remains the one constant and the center of our worship. And that gives us hope, no matter the circumstances we’re facing.
Dr. Tom McElheny has served as an elder and director of Christian education for three Sarasota, Florida, churches, holds advanced degrees in business and education, and is CEO of his church seating company, ChurchPlaza.