It’s been an interesting year! As we hit the one year anniversary of the first lockdown, it seems that we might at last be seeing a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. With the first key steps in our road out of lockdown passing during this month and the promise of future easing to come, we might just be starting to dream about what our ministries may look like on the other side of this pandemic. I’m sure for the past 12 months, like me, your ministry has looked unrecognizable from previous years, so does the promise of restrictions lifted simply mean a return to what there was before or do we have permission to rethink our ministries in light of all that has been?
Over the next few months I’m going to be asking myself three key questions that you too may find helpful when preparing your ministry for the road ahead.
What has been gained during this time?
Whilst the last 12 months may have caused much heartache and pain in many areas of our lives, to view some of the amazing work that you and many others have done across the country with the same negativity would cause us to miss all the good seeds that may have been sown. I have been able to see many families more fully engaging in parenting their child for a faith-filled life. As church doors closed, lounges and front rooms opened to be places of encounter and equipping for families. Community projects have sprung up across the nation that, locally, have helped us connect with more households than ever before and, nationally, raised the name of Jesus and shown his love through the support and action of His church. This does not mean that the projects we have run will look exactly the same, but it’s worth exploring the gains that we have made as we look to build upon that work.
What are you grieving?
Whilst much has been gained during this period, quite clearly there have been many things that our ministry has lost over the last 12 months. My biggest grievance was made clear to me after the November lockdown. On our first Sunday back to in-person worship I had the honour of leading a family service and for the first time in months could pray for people in person. Whilst my online work was connecting with families and opening new avenues in the home, I, like so many of you, had missed ministering to families in person. It didn’t last long though! Weeks later we were back online, back in the home and back in lockdown. The thing that grieves you most may not be something that you have lost, but something that has become apparent to you this year. Across the country we have become more aware of issues of food poverty, inequality and job insecurity, issues that seem to have a disproportionately negative effect on the most vulnerable in our society. As you and your church have responded to many of these issues in your local area you may have found your heart broken and stirred to action. When our hearts are stirred it’s not surprising to find that it’s God who is stirring it! Whether something you have lost or something you see, whatever is causing your heart to break could well be the thing that God is breaking your heart for.
What is God saying?
In your amazing response to a changing landscape, where goalposts seem to be constantly moving, we have had to massively adapt the way that we work. We have learned new skills, tried new ventures and poured our heart and soul into everything we have done. But all these new skills and ventures have come at the cost of time. I know I am not the only one to have spent hours in front of a computer editing videos as a large chunk of my ministry has moved online. For many, myself included, it has felt that even though many of our clubs, assemblies and other commitments have been cancelled, we are busier than ever. And even though this question is the most important of all, finding the time to ask it may feel impossible or even slip past us as we continue to live a life of hurry. But we must make time and we must ask the question, because the questions that have gone before are ones we need to be asking in the presence of God. As we do this, as we dialogue with him, a vision and agenda will be formed from the partnership.
As restrictions are eased, as life attempts to find some semblance of normality again, I’m sure that we will see that Covid-19 will have left a lasting mark on our world. And whilst we may wish, in many ways, to ark back towards what had come before, that may not be what God has in store for this next season. But to truly know, we must make time and be given space to ask some very big questions. I am excited to see where you and God adventure next.
Matt Beckett leads Kidz Klub Ashill in Norfolk and serves as one of the Family Workers at Fountain of Life Church.