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Coming to grips with the fact that people are taking steps in their faith in ways that are less connected to and dependent on me.

Here’s a phrase that I’m starting to coach myself not to say anymore:

When this season is over…

As in: when things go back to normal… when there’s a vaccine… when we’re not wearing masks anymore… you know: When life goes back to “normal.” When we can get back to doing all of those things we used to do.

Here’s why I’m not going to say that anymore:

We’ve been in “this season” long enough for our “normal” to have changed—permanently.

More recent data from churches is suggesting that we’re probably not going to see some of the volunteer, attendance, or other engagement numbers that we saw pre-pandemic.And anecdotal data confirms this. Even as (your) churches have been open for over a month now, we’re beginning to see with our own eyes: 

We don’t seem to be going back to normal. We seem to be redefining normal.

Our people are more comfortable watching online—pandemic or no pandemic. Volunteers are enjoying more time on the weekends. And the really crazy (ironic?) thing is this: People are still taking steps in their faith—even without all of the systems and programs that were designed to help them do so pre-virus.

Now: a lot of us celebrated this back in March and April. Because, hey, how cool is it that we serve a God who still works even when we can’t? But now that we (kinda) can… but aren’t seeing anywhere near the engagement that we once did… we’re discouraged.

Not because God’s not at work. Not because lives aren’t being changed. That’s not why we’re discouraged.

We’re discouraged, I think, because we’re still not able to be in the center of it in the same way that we used to be (or at least feel like we were).


When we’re not…

  • having to make the phone calls to confirm your presence on the team this weekend…
  • heading to all the coffees and meals…
  • out several nights a week to different events…

In other words:

As we come to grips with the fact that people are taking steps in their faith in ways that are less connected to and dependent on me, what’s our purpose?

I think that’s the question that more church leaders are asking themselves these days.

As we sense that our people are realizing that they can really, truly, take transformative steps in their faith that don’t require them to give up their weekends or yet another night out, and aren’t having to reorient their lives around all of the stuff that we’re creating—and yet, they are still taking steps towards Jesus —then why do we even exist? What’s the point?

It’s forcing us to take a step back and look at what’s happening. If we can get over ourselves and our pride for a second, here’s what we’d see:

  • Parents are discipling their kids (without them coming into our programs and environments and teams). 

  • People are inviting their friends (without them filling a seat). 

  • People are giving (without a bucket or plate being passed). 

  • People are serving (without a lanyard on a weekend team).

It’s as though God is pulling back the curtain for us and giving us a little peek into something that we often forget in our over-programmed, weekend-dependent, event-centric strategies:

He is the One behind everyone’s growth—all the time. 


He really doesn’t need us in order to draw people to him.

So what’s our purpose, then? If God is doing all of this (mostly) without us, then what are the rest of us supposed to do with all of this “free time” we now have on our hands?

There’s a lot—a lot—that we could say about this. But let’s start here:


Start with what God’s been up to in your own life.

Have you been able to spend more time with your family and kids? Feel like you’ve been more intentional? Have you been able to invest more in your personal health – maybe got into some better spiritual or physical rhythms?

Maybe you decided to finally get to know/serve your neighbor in a COVID- (or non-COVID-) related way? Or have you been a part of a virtual group that met more frequently/consistently/authentically?

Celebrate that. Give God the credit for it. Thank him for it. Share it. Make a post or a video about it. Maybe just pray a prayer of thankfulness.

It’s time for us to start celebrating what God is already doing rather than waiting for the time where we can start doing everything we used to.

In fact: maybe that should be the game plan from now on. Pandemic or not.

Jesse Tink

Jesse is the Pastor of Campus Development at Prairie Lakes Church, which currently spans across six campuses in northeastern and central Iowa. He’s served in various roles including college, music, production, teaching, and senior leadership. Jesse has led teams in urban, suburban, and rural locations, from campuses of 50 to 1500. Married to Erin, they have their son, Jude, and their daughter, Ellie. He’s outside in the colder months hunting deer and turkey at their family-owned ground, and roots for the Iowa Hawkeyes and New York Yankees.

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