What a year this has been – and it’s only August!
I think most of us would agree that if anyone told us that 2020 would be the year of an economic shutdown, church doors closing, and walking around with masks on, we would have thought it was a bad dream.
Ironically that is where we have found ourselves for much of this year.
Churches have scrambled to stream church services, stay connected with members, and maintain its workforce in unprecedented times. And most have faired pretty well!
Working from home has become the new norm, and learning new technologies was expected of all.
So what is next for the church after the dust settles and this pandemic is finally behind us?
8 Things Churches Will Focus On Post Pandemic
1. Remote Work
Everyone has been doing it, so will this become the new norm?
We have learned how to work remotely, so employees will most likely want to continue the flexibility to work from home.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 25 percent of US employees worked from home at least occasionally before the pandemic.
Today, most jobs that require phone or computer work have been able to work from home, thanks to the technologies that support virtual work.
Now might be a good time to reevaluate office space and consider remote work for office personnel with conference meetings to stay connected.
A question to ask: With a virtual work environment, do we need as much office space?
2. Virtual Learning
Online learning has skyrocketed during this pandemic.
Our kids have used technology for their schoolwork, and many organizations have taken advantage of online learning for employees also.
There is a lot of flexibility with online learning, which allows employees to work at their own pace and take continuing educations classes when it is convenient for them.
For instance, if an employee has small children, online learning allows them to participate in training after the kids go to bed.
A question to ask: Is there more affordable and flexible learning options to keep employee skills where they need to be?
3. Mental Health
These past few months have bombarded all of us with unanticipated stressors that we have had to deal with.
Parents with young children have had to endure the most since they were thrown into a situation where they had to work from home while trying to learn to homeschool their children.
Most people won’t admit these stressors, so employers should be proactive and offer help.
Pay attention to the emotional and mental health aspect of this pandemic and provide employees with resources to help them cope.
For instance, schedule time for employees and allow them to share experiences and tips with each other. Host a Bible study that focuses on stress and anxiety, organize scheduled prayer with staff to help them cope with unprecedented challenges of balancing parenting and work.
A question to ask: Have we stopped and thought about the mental health of our most valuable resource – our employees?
4. Health Care Costs
This pandemic has not only impacted the health of many Americans, but it has taken a toll on the health care system.
You should expect an increase in healthcare costs in 2021 due to the Cares Act Provider Relief Fund For Patients, which requires all health plans to waive some of the related Covid-19 testing and/or treatment costs.
This will undoubtedly have an impact on 2021 premiums. These premium increases are expected to be higher than the average 6 percent increase in recent years.
Talk to your health care plan representative to get a preview of what is expected when health plans are renewed.
A question to ask: How much of an increase can we expect for health care costs in 2021?
5. Employee Paid Time Off Costs
Similar to rising health care costs, churches can expect to increase their employee paid time off costs if they comply with the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act), which requires two weeks of paid sick leave if an employee is required to quarantine and unable to work.
Please note: Most churches would be exempt from the FFCRA.
However, most churches would take care of their own by covering these costs, with or without FFCRA, but need to consider the costs associated with paid time off employee benefits.
A question to ask: Even if we aren’t required to provide paid time off for COVID related health issues, is this something our church should consider?
6. New Office Norms And Related Expenses
Hopefully, your church has developed new policies related to sanitation, social distancing, and mask requirements while in the office.
Some organizations are taking employee temperatures before they are allowed in the office as an extra precautionary step.
Regardless, how the office is run, how employees interact and mingle has changed – and there will be costs associated with these changes.
For instance, your church may need to add new church budget dollars to support masks, thermometers, cleaning supplies, and even wages for someone to manage it.
A question to ask: What will our added expenses be to maintain a safe environment, and who on staff can help ensure the new precautionary steps are followed?
7. Giving Post-Pandemic
Churches don’t like to talk about it, but concern over maintaining giving patterns during and post-pandemic has been a real concern.
The good news is, giving trends during the initial months of the pandemic has been positive, with most churches seeing consistent giving levels, and some even realized higher giving levels.
Churches that use digital giving technologies have had the best results.
If your church has not adopted an online giving tool, you may want to consider using one to make digital giving easier.
Also, encourage members who use digital giving tools to “set it and forget it” by signing up for recurring donations.
A question to ask: Are we using all available technologies to make giving as easy as possible for church members?
8. The New Norm In Church Services
For those of us who treasure a church service, the last several months have been difficult.
We go to church because we enjoy being with other believers and enjoy corporate prayer and worship.
This start and stop to church meetings have been trying for church leaders.
Members have become accustomed to going to church in their pajamas, and many have enjoyed the virtual service option.
The new norm will undoubtedly be that churches will slowly resume weekly church services. These services will continue to be streamed so that the vulnerable populations continue to have the option to participate from home.
One of the biggest challenges with streaming church services is engagement.
Churches will need to take active steps to ensure that those who choose to remain at home will not lose connection with their church family.
A question to ask: What is your church doing to keep members engaged that participate from home?
The year of the 2020 pandemic will undoubtedly be one that we will tell stories for decades to come.
For the church, this year has been one of transformation, new beginnings, and learning to utilize developing technologies to reach more people for Christ.
Let’s embrace these challenging times and see how God will use these difficult times to expand the post-pandemic church!