GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.—COVID-19 has greatly impacted and continues to shape church ministry.

On Sept. 21 pastors from the Grand Rapids Regional Association of Regular Baptist Churches met for a panel discussion on the topic “COVID Changes Worth Keeping.” The discussion was one of the Breakpoint luncheons the association holds each month for pastors. Magnify Church of Grand Rapids hosted the meeting in the church’s Northview campus.

“It is easy to focus on the negatives related to COVID. There are certainly many to choose from,” says Jeff Burr, moderator of the panel discussion and pastor of Forest Hills Baptist Church in Grand Rapids.

​His church “chose to focus on silver linings and ways in which the disruption of COVID perhaps pushed us to consider healthy changes,” Jeff says. “When we stopped passing the offering plate, many of our people shifted to online giving. The fact is that younger generations are not writing checks anyway.”

Most of the churches represented in the panel discussion don’t intend to reinstate passing offering plates during church services.

Along with collecting offerings, the traditional pattern of Communion has changed as well. Churches swapped their open cups of Communion elements for prepackaged wafers and juice. And rather than passing trays of the cups to each other down the aisles, attenders in some churches walk to the front of the church during the service to receive the cups.

Churches are ready to be done with those prepackaged cups, Jeff notes, but many churches indicated that they would continue to use a participatory pattern for Communion in the future.

Church services themselves have also changed, with many churches now livestreaming their services.

“Zoom meetings and livestream broadcasts are not replacements for basic Christian community,” Jeff says. “But many churches have found virtual meetings to be very effective and efficient when it comes to conducting business. And most newcomers are vetting the church online before attending in person. So COVID has forced us to up our livestream game!”

COVID-19 “is a global medical crisis,” Jeff points out. But “the crisis before us is also an opportunity. In God’s providence, He has often caused His church to experience the greatest growth in the midst of adversity.”