To say that church in 2021 is different is a bit of an understatement. Eventually we’ll reach a point where it’s no longer necessary to say, but it doesn’t feel right yet to begin a conversation without the obligatory “2020 changed everything.” If you are anything like us, the monumental shifts of the past year left you reeling, and you’re still trying to get your bearings. Our staff and teams have come a long way but there is still so much we are learning and working to solve daily.
While so much is different, mostly we are looking for new ways to accomplish the same goals. It’s a method change, not a mission change. At the core of the mission and strategy of VOUS Church has always been mobilizing our community of people to serve God and one another. For us it’s not just about serving people, it’s about empowering people to serve each other. We know that serving is instrumental in personal growth and the development of spiritual maturity. It’s also incredibly fulfilling. We don’t want to deprive our community of the beautiful opportunity to serve.
But the past year has presented new challenges to how we do that. Like just about every other area of our church, we have had to rethink how we mobilize our volunteers to serve. The unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves—you know, global pandemic and all—created two clear new categories of volunteers for us: those who are comfortable serving in person and those who are not. Rather than view this as a limitation, we decided to look for the new opportunity in front of us. Our new context gave us a chance to rethink our approach to in-person gatherings and to develop our approach to church online.
Here are three things we did that helped us step into this new season for the Church.
1. Restructured Our Teams
The first thing the COVID-19 pandemic did was create an urgent and immediate need for us to build an online church experience. This was completely new to our staff and teams and brought with it a steep learning curve. Once we moved past the initial shock, we knew we needed to take a step back and evaluate. Before the pandemic began, we had about 600 volunteers—who we call servant leaders—serving each Sunday in one of our two locations. After months without an in-person gathering, we had to get a read on our volunteer base.
Before COVID, our volunteers were divided into two categories: iTech and JDD (our abbreviations for the names of our two Sunday locations). With both of those locations closed indefinitely, we began our restructure by reorganizing our database into two new serving categories: in-person and online. We then reached out to everyone who had previously been in a team leader role and asked them whether they would like to continue to serve in their in-person capacity or prefer to take on a new role in the online space. We then asked those team leaders to have that same conversation with everyone who had formerly been on their rosters. Once we knew where everyone stood, we created new teams and appointed new leaders.
2. Reimagined Our Systems
With a new structure in place, the next step was to develop fresh systems to execute the timeless mission of our church in new ways. If the structure is the bones of your organization, your systems are the veins and arteries that deliver the nutrients the body needs. These are the protocols, processes, templates, best practices that enable your organization to run efficiently. A good system is clear—people understand how it works and are able to follow and teach it—and accountable—there are specific inspection points that ensure the system is being properly followed.
The challenge for us has been to think beyond how we used to do it while maintaining the spirit of who we have always been. The unspoken question is how do we make the new still feel like VOUS? Our human resistance to change doesn’t arise from our hatred of something different, it stems from the fear of losing the best of what we have now. But our hope is anchored in the conviction that God is leading us into the future he has for us. All we have to do is steward what he has placed in our hands now and remain open to whatever he wants to do next.
3. Relaunched Our Church
Somewhere around the end of 2020, our team had a shared epiphany. We realized that we are in a season that can best be categorized as a relaunch. We are not waiting to return to business as usual. We are not working to reestablish what we had before. We are building something new. God is doing something new. What we need is not a few tweaks. This moment in history is an opportunity for us to rethink everything. Rather than resist the change and lament the difficulty, we chose to embrace it and asked God to open our eyes to the new possibilities before us.
At VOUS, we have always fought for clarity around what matters most. There are so many things that could be done, so many options to choose from. In the early days of our church, pastor Rich shared a message he titled First Things First. In it, he laid out five things our church would do: services, small groups, service projects, discipleship classes, and team development. Six years later, with a lot of change between then and now, none of those things has gone anywhere. Venues have changed, schedules have changed, terminology has changed, the world has changed, but our mission remains the same. In this changing world, may we be reminded of our eternal hope and our immutable Heavenly Father. He is leading us every step of the way.