"No going back to normal" breakout session summary

Below is a summary of the “No going back to normal” breakout session:

What are one or two ways you’ve seen God positively impact your community through this pandemic?

New people are engaging who normally would not/could not (esp the homebound/those who have moved away):

  • People are watching and commenting on Facebook
  • New virtual experiences possible (e.g. prayer, trivia, book study) beyond local area and less constrained by traffic/schedules
  • People are more flexible, supportive, vocal about prayer requests.
  • Young people are leading more (particularly in worship)
  • Whole families engaged for the whole service (instead of segregating).

People who didn’t have access before now have access. How do we sustain that post-pandemic?

What reforms are afraid you might lose once our physical spaces can reopen?

We do not want to lose new people.

  • Keep services shorter
  • Keep services accessible to people from everywhere (esp. the far away/homebound/uncomfortable coming to physical church).
  • Keep conversations with people who previously couldn’t participate.

We do not want to lose our spirit.

  • Keep the innovative, creative, flexible spirit instead of “stuck in our ways” mentality.
  • Keep the creative and high quality “worship video” experiences
  • Keep worshiping together instead of splitting into youth, adults, etc.
  • Keep storytelling from people’s lives in the frontlines of life (e.g. ER doctor, city manager, etc.)

How do we literally have equality between online and offline instead of privileging one over the other?

What reforms do you hope will take place?

The church becomes externally focused rather than internally focused with greater care of people and community than building or tradition.

  • Increased vital action addressing racism
  • Awareness of the church’s multilingual nature
  • Greater quality of online streaming and virtual presence
  • Integration of in-person and virtual attendance and connection; effective outreach in-person and online.
  • More “intimate” experiences with smaller groups of people
  • Creative, experimental attitude
  • Hunger for fruits of the Spirit, exposure of existing idols, greater emphasis on making disciples

How do you see your role as a ministry leader changing as a result of this pandemic?

Digital literacy is essential and digital natives (often laity) are stepping up.

  • Instead of continuing the status quo, leaders are be more creative and flexible with worship experiences.
  • New meaning to “equipping the saints” since technical lay people are more essential than ever.
  • More intentional listening to the congregation
  • Curating content more than just creating it
  • Greater pastoral care for one another and personal connection
  • Reviewing and refocusing the vision and mission of the church
  • Having to learn new technologies quickly and creatively applying it to what the community wants
  • Less building administration, more community organizing.

If Jeff Bezos came to you and said, “I want to build the technology that will support the future of the Church,” what would you ask him to build? Dream Big.

Ubiquitous high speed connection in customizable virtual spaces that support “serendipitous” meetings, easily accessible to everyone, not just the tech literate.

  • How do we replicate the “serendipity” of in person conversations in a large room? How do we enable “running into” someone and having a conversation?
  • A platform that seamlessly integrates in person and on-line gatherings. You should see personal video of everyone in the room.
  • A tablet for each person to log into virtual gatherings without a bunch of steps and has high speed internet always on. It should support small group connections too.
  • Ability to create a virtual “physical space” where people can create a “physical setting” to meet in.
  • Ubiquitous high speed internet that is easy to operate.
  • Create virtual church space that ensures people of all socio-economic status can participate and speak in different languages and work together and find meaning and connection (esp among young people).
  • VR/Holographic tech platform with smooth transitions between participants in a room–like turning your head to see who is speaking.
  • Invent a safe way for people to gather in person as they did before. (Public health/medical innovation).

What do you believe God is calling you and your church to do (in response to the pandemic and the digital transformation that is taking place)?

  • Selflessly following Jesus so that our churches serve people so well the beauty of unity without uniformity gives people hope.
  • Developing community and disciples in local neighborhood contexts.
  • Feed people, provide rent and utilities and a safe space for the poor and vulnerable. Emphasis on justice.
  • To slow down, accept the messiness and confusion and remember our embodied life.
  • To value and elevate the gifts of the young / next generation.

What pressing questions do you wish we could answer?

  • A repository for experiments going on that others can learn from (or a collection/journal of experiments?)
  • How to deal with blended online/offline experiences that create true community across the boundary
  • What does healthy leadership look like when we don’t know where are headed?
  • What creative ideas are others doing within the constraints of Zoom?
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