If we’re involved in running a charity or a church or anything at all we have to see everything as a start up; we have to take it all apart and put it back together again. Yesterday I joined a live service from a big church in Surrey that I’ve worked with. I don’t know the viewing figures but they included people from overseas, (Germany, Sweden, Doha), and others from Manchester, Wales, East and North London, Norwich. These were only the ones that declared themselves. On the other hand I had an e-mail last week from a friend, telling me that her church was doing nothing to stay in touch and care for the flock. A young teenager told me he’d had no contact of any kind from his church youth leader during the lockdowns. How are we to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.
I asked a good friend Graham Bailey to send me some thoughts. This is what he had to say.
The year that has just passed has brought many challenges and changes for people, businesses, governments, charities and churches; at times the pace of these changes have been quite overwhelming and a response difficult. So thinking about the year to come and how we should approach it, here are some thoughts…
First of all the world has changed irrevocably and will not return to the way things were, this includes the way we work, shop, travel, communicate and live. Taking these changes one at a time lets examine what they mean for us all.
Work – remote working will continue for many months and for some this will be the way of work ongoing. This means looking for new ways to build relationships which are both online and offline so that we don’t become zoom zombies with little or no interaction face to face. Relationship hubs where people can meet, work and interact could be a good solution such as coffee shops providing space for home workers and local communities recognising the need for their home workers to have a place to chill and converse.
Shop – the online boom has certainly changed the way many people purchase goods and services and as we see the disappearance of many of those high street outlets it means that our online shopping habits will have been well established and the retail outlets will have to come up with something really attractive to lure us back. The solution may lie in the need for face to face communication and this could be offered via stores providing an experience which meets these needs such as demonstrations, classes in topics relating to their goods on sale i.e. food storage in Lakeland, accessorising in Claires, book readings in Waterstones and creatively making things such as craft and exotic foods.
Travel – something which has been severely restricted during 2020 will become more attractive as it is made available once the pandemic is over. The aviation industry proudly show that exponential growth in air travel has occurred throughout the last 70 years with minor blips from gulf wars, sars and 911 but each time the growth has returned as the insatiable appetite to travel returns. Although the airlines which are still flying may be fewer these will experience a return to pre-pandemic levels of passengers and a surge in new destinations.
Communicate – the distanced communications we have all become familiar with will certainly continue as companies, churches and charities have realised the far greater reach which can be obtained via online communications. Universities and colleges will teach greater numbers of students across the globe as they offer courses to more students in more locations and at lower prices than the traditional studies might have been. Churches will continue to stream services reaching a whole new congregation who could be spread far beyond the traditional parishes and geographical constraints. New support mechanisms will need to be put in place to help these remote students, parishioners and customers of service industries.
Live – in response to all of these quite dramatic changes the way we all live and interact will inevitably have changed. Reliance on technology increases and the world responds faster to any developments in science and technology. This means faster adoption of new technologies and the realisation that if the world works closer together as they have on coronavirus then some of the major ills of the world such as pollution, global warming etc. can be tackled more effectively with a global response.
The full effect of all this on charities and churches will be that their online presence will be essential and the means of communication become more digital than ever before. Those who manage this effectively will reap the benefits and those who can offer some direct as well as indirect contact will assuredly find a ready audience. IT investment and finding creative ways to engage with their target audience will remain key to a successful church/charity programme as we emerge from lockdown and pandemic is over.
Thanks Graham. Now let’s get praying and planning, and build a bridge into the future. Go well