As we look ahead to the future, congregations are planning for when they will be in person again and how to continue to include online participants. Whether we call this hybrid, multi-platform, or dual-platform, congregations across the size spectrum are expecting to live into this inclusion.
Each congregation will chart their own path to best meet the emotional and spiritual needs of their members. This recording shares some framing to help your congregation discern your direction and guidance on how to move through this planning process. Below you'll find insights and aha moments from congregational leaders in the Central East District who participated in the March 2021 webinars. (Also review the similar but different All-Ages Dual Platform Future)
Conversation Highlights from Participants
“Who is most on your heart as you think about a return to in-person programming?”
- Those who have not been participating online due to technology or financial barriers
- Those who have health issues or live far away have been able to participate because we are online
- Those with grief from losing a beloved
- Those longing for social and physical connection
- Those who yearn to sing and make music together
- Families who are overwhelmed with online school
- People who don't do well with uncertainty
- Many of us in lay leadership who are bone-tired
- Our Audio/Visual Volunteers
- Staff who are bone-tired
- New people who may have a distorted understanding of commitment and covenant
"What do we need to consider in our planning (mission, needs, volunteer capacity, budget, messaging, etc.)?"
- We don't want to overwhelm ourselves
- We need to be clear about who will make what decisions about reopening
- How an overwhelmed board can make reopening decisions (look to UUA for guidance)
- How to reconnect those who have not be attending
- Need leap in techology to offer livestreaming for in-person worship services
- Covenant and right relations are important as we lean into the discomfort of the conversations we need to have
- How to budget with our limited financial resources for needed technology, etc.
- Updates to the building that consider not just technology, but how we might gather differently in person
- Figuring out ventilation issues in our building
- People are already burnt out -- how do we not overburden them
- Safety of members
- Opportunities for deeper connection
- Ramping up our communication strategy to find more ways and opportunities to share what is happening and why
- How can this be an opportunity to let go of old habits and become the Beloved Community we dream about
- We want people to be able to come back with enthusiasm and joy
"What are some insights you have as you plan in-person ministry once it is safe?"
- We need to offer both in-person and online options to meet multiple needs, but don't need to do everything at once
- We need to be trauma-informed in our planning, as Rev. Sunshine mentioned, including in ourselves
- Go slow, and be transparent
- Boundaries, policies, etc. need to be clear and firm
- Need to have covenants about how we interact when we gather
- Find ways to meet outside when the weather allows (especially children and youth). Summer might serve as a transition time.
- Frame the conversation as "How do we return to community?"
- Flexibility and kindness to one another are key
- There is more than one right way
- Let go of perfection
- Don't try to do everything
- Don't try to do it alone -- make sure there is a good team of congregational leaders working together in the same direction
- Make time for leaders to go on "retreat" for out-of-box thinking
- Technology can no longer be an afterthought. We need staff or committed volunteers.
- Need to plan for disorientation and other trauma-informed responses
- We need to pay more attention to in-person accessibility (hearing loops, door width, immuno-compromised people)
- Children are last in line to be vaccinated
- All ministry will be feel weird and will be developmental ministry for the next 3-5 years until we get to a new normal
- What is scientifically safe and what feels safe will not always align
- This is a chance to create worship anew. Sharing the pulpit with other congregations can lighten the load.
- There is a chance to recreate family ministry. Maybe we spend a year experimenting
- Need to expand our ability to communicate well and in many different ways
- Small groups are going to be more important than ever to keep people connected
- Don't make assumptions about needs. We need to listen deeply, especially to the voices that are often not heard
- Many people are watching the worship recording during the week -- how might that inform our planning?