The Commission on Congregational Mission of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin has chosen as its focus for the first half of 2021 the topic of “stewardship.” The Commission has pursued research on the topic, particularly as it relates to engaging younger generations. Members meet monthly to share their learnings with one another and to develop a strategy for sharing more widely across the Region. The following is a brief reflection on those learnings in light of the effects of the pandemic.
“Realities of Our New Normal”
The COVID 19 era has been a curse and, in some ways, a blessing for so many churches. Several churches have closed while others have flourished. This deadly COVID 19 virus has caused much fear and loss. It has forced the church to permanently change the overall concept of what church means, is and does. This Commission on Congregational Mission has researched current information on stewardship, today’s churches, and their youth. The following is a brief reflection drawn from our efforts.
Discussions about the “graying” of the traditional church were occurring in the years prior to the pandemic. Adults were living longer, and this generation was not training or making a way for successive generations. Countless numbers of young adults and their families were leaving the traditional church. Some traditional churches were having more funerals than baptisms and weddings. Pastors who managed to maintain intergenerational congregations prior to the pandemic have stated that they continue to focus their sermons on universal themes. They have encouraged their members, seniors, and youth to use their smart phones and new technologies in their ministries. Youth were encouraged to help the older generations increase their knowledge of and comfort level with the new technologies that are available to communicate and to worship.
Today’s young adults have found there is now a need in church for their skills with technology and social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube. They have also found church to be a refuge to turn to where they can address the emotional and financial trauma caused by the COVID 19 pandemic. Church without walls has allowed members to continue to fellowship and “congregate” while respecting the public health requirements for social distancing. The longer the pandemic lasts the more creative our churches are becoming, thanks to our young adults as well as Pastors and Ministry Leaders who are “tech savvy.”
Core memberships in several family churches have remained intact and eager to participate in ways not previously imagined. More people are reaching out to our churches and receiving the Good News than were able to in our brick-and-mortar edifices. Today’s churches are still able to provide human services, such as food, clothing, COVID supplies and financial support, to populations in their local church and in their local community. Today’s church members are praying more, teaching more, and reading God’s word in more unique ways. Let us pray that we continue to develop a “new normal” in today’s churches as COVID 19 becomes less of a threat. Let this “new normal” continue to utilize inclusive thinking, intergenerational ways to worship, and multigenerational leadership in service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The members of the 2021 ABC Wisconsin Commission on Congregational Mission are:
Bonnie Sorenson, Wauwatosa, Underwood Memorial (chair)
Dr. Carolyn Parker, Milwaukee, Progressive
Rev. Terry West, Milwaukee, New Hope
Rev. Walt Hoshaw, Beloit, First
Linda Cutler, Milwaukee, Greater Mt. Zion
Rev. Russ Antos, Ixonia, First