I am a Saturday Night Live aficionado. I remember religiously watching its first and second and maybe the third season with my parents (which a lot of people thought was either weird or awesome). I now gasp when I say that was 46 years ago.
Maybe I should be put in a museum.
As our kids grew up, Tom and I introduced them to the SNL classics. We were especially fond of Phil Hartman and Will Ferrell. But our hands-down favorite? Chris Farley. We watched and re-watched a DVD of the “best of” sketches by Farley. We loved Matt Foley (who lived in a van down by the river). We adored his nervous guy who interviews Paul McCartney (“Remember when you were with the Beatles?”). And we laughed uproariously over Farley’s “air quotes.”
“Air quotes” seem like a good thing in COVID time. Everything feels just a little unreal. So – forgive me – in September I “went” to a “conference” sponsored by Church of the Resurrection in “Kansas City” with 4,000 “people.” This is all true. In Salem, OR, I watched from the comfort of my home office (and maybe in the kitchen while making a snack) the Church of the Resurrection’s (COR) Leadership Institute on-line along with a lot of other people from all over the world.
And you know what? It was terrific.
Just like nearly everything they do, COR’s Institute was top-notch. I got a box of goodies mailed to me before the conference even started which put me in a very good mood. I heard great speakers (shout out to Bishop Michael Curry) and attended some really compelling workshops (I’m in love with Dr. Amy-Jill Levine). And of course, because he’s the pastor of COR, Rev. Dr. Adam Hamilton spoke. Always engaging, always relevant, he didn’t disappoint.
In one of his three addresses, Hamilton talked about the long-lasting impact of COVID-19. He talked about the church needing to ask itself three adaptive change questions:
1. What must we keep doing, no matter what?
2. What must we stop doing?
3. What changes can or should we make?
Hamilton then went on to outline some of the COVID lessons Church of the Resurrection (the largest UMC in the country) has learned – here are two of them:
1. Communicate. And by communicate, Hamilton means hyper-communicate. Here are some quick ideas I came up with:
- send out two short and newsy emails a week to your congregation
- put uplifting memes on social media
- send snail mail – especially to people who do not have internet
- send snail mail to everyone once in a while (getting the mail can be the highlight of the day)
- drop an unexpected email to a church member
- send a special mailing to your biggest supporters
2. Online is the new normal. I was in a recent Zoom meeting and one of the participants was hoping that we’d “get back to normal” with in-person worship. Hamilton, however, was emphatic that digital is here to stay. He said that on one Sunday (remember his is a mega-church) 504 adults and children became members of the church; two-thirds of them had not been active before COVID. This was all on-line. Even in my own church, we’ve welcomed, via YouTube, new members and have been witness to a baptism. And…I would be remiss if I didn’t ask again, have you implemented electronic giving? As Hamilton noted, “John Wesley [the founder of Methodism] was a pragmatist so we must be pragmatists.”
These are important things to keep in mind as you head into the Advent season and begin planning for the new year. Take a minute out of the busy-ness and ask the adaptive questions. Think about how you will embrace hyper-communication and the reality of online church life. The answers and your strategy will provide you with a real road map for 2021 and post-COVID. No Chris Farley “air quotes” will be necessary.
Two quick reminders:
1. Don’t forget: Steal this Letter! Christmas Edition and my offer to review your Advent/year-end letter. Send your letter to me here.
2. Julia Frisbie, Associate Director of the Northwest United Methodist Foundation, and I will be doing a webinar, Should You do a Second Pledge Drive? On December 10 at 1pm (PST), sponsored by PRC – Practical Resources for Churches. You can sign-up right here.