This is a season to acknowledge challenges honestly and grieve what needs grieving. Yet, in God’s economy, it’s also a time filled with so many opportunities. Here's how you can pivot your ministry to connect and serve your congregation and community.

Over the summer, while churches were closed in our area, my husband and I stopped by our church to pick something up. The building was dark and empty, a little warmer than usual to reduce cooling costs. As we walked into the dim lobby, I noticed baskets near the Worship Center doors, still holding the March bulletins that were printed and neatly stacked but never distributed. Inside the building, time seemingly stood still, waiting for a plan that didn’t transpire. Indeed, the church had left the building. It pivoted.

This is a season to acknowledge challenges honestly and grieve what needs grieving. Yet, in God’s economy, it’s also a time filled with so many opportunities. This isn’t about wearing a mantle of false positivity, but instead about changing our perspective to see possibilities rising through the challenges. It is the voice that says, “I can’t do the thing I planned to do, but I can do this instead!”

When we pivot, we are present, aware, and open to new ideas and methods.

Pivoting is moving in a new direction, not just adding one more thing to the to-do list. It requires us to move away from something and toward another.

Maybe you need to move from fear into courage, or from waiting into moving. Perhaps it’s more practical, like shifting from having a scattered social media presence to a strategic one.

God often shows his power most clearly in our moments of need. Or perhaps it is at those moments that we are paying attention more closely. Either way, we know that need leads to opportunity. As we look around our world right now, there is so much need. Life has been hard for many reasons, and people are asking questions for which the local church has answers. 

The good news is churches can get better at building bridges from their powerful message of love and hope to the people who need the message. But we may be required to build the bridge in a different direction than we anticipated, and to use some new tools.

Here are four ways your church can pivot: 

  1. FOCUS your efforts and energy.
    Make sure your team is focused on your mission’s essentials - such as caring for people, making disciples, leading in worship and building relationships. This might be the year to set down or simplify some time-honored traditions that are all-consuming. 

    • Where are the places we’re seeing traction and impact? 
    • Are there other things we’re doing/promoting that are seeing a low return? 
    • And a Fishhook favorite: What can we stop doing today?

      Commit to declaring a few priorities and doing them well rather than chasing every possibility. Invest in the areas where you are seeing momentum - even if they are newer and a little unfamiliar. You can always add things later as resources allow.
  2. ADAPT the expression of your mission when needed. 
    Perhaps one of the highlights of your church’s holiday season is hosting a large Christmas party for families in need with their children. But this may not be the year for a party with a full buffet and dozens of adults and kids in close proximity. Pivot. Return to “the why” of this tradition.

    • What could it look like? 
    • What do these parents need this year? Help providing presents for kids? Connection? Prayer? To know they are not alone? 
    • Instead of a large gathering, how about a personal call to talk with an encouraging mentor? 
    • What about a scheduled porch drop-off to provide what they need? 
    • Set up an Amazon wish list so congregation members can serve by donating items easily. 
    • Or, ask for gift cards that can be given to parents, offering them the fun and dignity of choosing what they know their child would love to receive.
  3. WATCH and listen.
    This year, we haven’t heard any church leaders saying, “I have this all figured out.” We have seen many leaders who have been asking questions and innovating. Pray and ask God to give you courage and wisdom as you look around at your community and its needs.

    • Where do we hear people expressing hurt or frustration?
    • Beyond the symptoms, what are the overarching themes and how can your church provide practical help? 
    • Are people hungry for personal connections? Need help finding jobs? Stressed out trying to work and educate their children at home? Supporting aging parents who are lonely and isolated? 
    • What are some ways your church can step into needs like these?
    • It could mean partnering with another local church or organization. Or organizing a volunteer team to make personal connections with people in need. Pivoting means we shift from the original plan into the need of the moment. Unexpected opportunities become our priorities as we move in a new direction to respond.
  4. ASK for help. Know Yourself.
    Philippians 4:13 says we can “do all things through Christ.” We believe that. And, sometimes one of the hardest things to do is ask for help. Know how God has designed you, and seek help from others to fill in the areas that may be challenging. Do you love to explore new ideas, but lose focus in the middle of the implementation? Who can come alongside you to help manage projects and track details? Can you see the potential of a new digital strategy but have no idea how to actually structure the plan? That’s okay. The strongest leaders don’t try to do it all themselves, but surround themselves with passionate people with varying strengths.

    • Where could I use some help as a leader right now? 
    • Who could I ask to step in and help? 
    • Where could our team use some help/encouragement right now? 
    • How can you provide that? 

At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is: not default. Find a way to see the possibilities to minister and serve the people of your community. Then, give yourself some grace as you try new things and use new tools.