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What’s next for ministry in the post-pandemic era?

Office of Christian Formation develops resources to help navigate next steps

by Scott O’Neill | Presbyterian News Service

Photo by John Tyson via Unsplash

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Christian Formation (OCF) recently introduced two new resources designed to help congregations, church leaders, communities and organizations navigate the post pandemic world.

Post-Pandemic Pondering and Planning – A Resource for Faith Re-Formation, created in partnership with the Association of Presbyterian Church Educators (APCE), helps with brainstorming, reflecting, and praying about re-forming into one’s community. WhatNext?, created in partnership with RootedGood, helps ministries identify and discern new creative approaches in the post-pandemic era. Both resources, in addition to several more that deal with pandemic-related planning and reflection, can be found on the OCF webpage.

What Next? helps discern new approaches and new ministries with an eye to outreach and the surrounding community.

“This spring as we listened to faith formation leaders around the country and saw the discussion on social media, we became aware that people were beginning to ponder and ask about what was next,” said Miatta Wilson, mission specialist in the Office of Christian Formation. “Yet most of the resources being shared by others were around re-opening worship or hybrid worship. We were excited to partner with both APCE and RootedGood on these two resources, which we think can be used by faith formation leaders in a multitude of contexts, whether church faith formation ministries, campus ministry, camps, preschools or outreach ministries.”

The Pondering and Planning resource uses a fun, accessible format to offer suggestions on how to start the planning process and invites users to consider five specific aspects of their ministry. It ends with suggestions on how to create an action plan for the next 3-6 months. One cannot help but notice that the resource itself is unique in its design and simplicity — a choice that was very intentional on the authors’ behalf.

The Post Pandemic Pondering & Planning resource was created in partnership with APCE and the Office of Christian Formation.

According to Randall McGee, a Presbyterian Christian educator and one of four authors working on the project, the team wanted to produce a resource that was not only helpful but inviting. Not aiming to replace any of the traditional planning resources currently in use, the authors were intentional about style and tone.

“We wanted something that would invite people in, be enjoyable to work with, different from other planning experiences and be useful in a variety of contexts for either groups or individuals,” he said. “It’s a resource we hope will be useful for folks looking at faith formation over the next 18 months to two years and that it pulls people in by being a bit different.”

McGee acknowledged that some groups would jump right back in as things open up. But this piece offers the opportunity to be more reflective about faith re-formation. He added that the resource is adaptable for multiple audiences within a congregation and can be useful for an educator, a committee, or a session meeting. It can be used in a traditional planning retreat format but also as a devotional activity and is adaptable for campus ministries and camps and conferences.

The What Next? tool is designed for leadership teams within a ministry and follows a more traditional workshop format to be completed over several sessions or a long gathering in person, online, or by phone. Participants are assigned group and solo activities which have time constraints attached to each to facilitate consensus. There are eight sections in the resource which covers the activities of a ministry. They include:

  • Mission and Purpose
  • Needs
  • Constraints
  • Activities
  • Resources/Assets
  • Inspiration
  • Bringing It All Together
  • Action Plan

According to RootedGood, a creator of tools and games that empower organizations and leaders to make good things happen in the world, What Next? helps ministries envision the good they want to create in the world, make plans for their future ministry, and “be the church” in ways that are relevant, life-giving and meaningful.

The Post Pandemic Pondering & Planning resource’s format is inviting, enjoyable to work with and a different style from traditional planning experiences.

“PC(USA) approached us to create a tool that worked post pandemic and helped organizations and faith communities, not just congregations,” said Shannon Hopkins, co-founder and lead cultivator at RootedGood. “It seemed a great time to help people think about what to do next now that people are beginning to gather and travel again, and to create a resource that helps people think ‘where next?’ instead of just returning to what was.”

“I really want What Next? to give people hope and confidence for their work, see possibility and feel encouraged and confident that the future can be better than the past,” she said.

The OCF created a resource roadmap that compiles these two resources and many others for leaders, volunteers, committees and other church audiences as they emerge from the pandemic that changed ministry for more than a year.

“As we move into new ways of being the church together, collaboration is key,” said Stephanie Fritz, mission coordinator for OCF. “In the Office of Christian Formation we are committed to listening to our partners and reaching out to groups and organizations that are doing work that churches and faith communities can connect to. These resources reflect the value of partnership and collaboration.”

As McGee points out, planning and gathering in the summer or fall of 2021 is very different than it was five years ago.

“We’ve gone through a lot. There are places within the resource for people to reflect on what we’ve gone through, to pause for prayer, think in terms of what was lost — and in planning for the future there is also some grieving,” he said. “There may be some excitement about things we’ve learned, but there’s also exhaustion over what we’ve been through.”

In addition to McGee (Dallas), the Pondering and Planning authors include Kathy Dawson (Decatur, Georgia), Rachel Pederson (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania), and Omar Rouchon (Houston).


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