United Methodist Foundation of Michigan
January 28, 2021
Is Your church in a Blizzard, the Season of Winter
or an Ice Age?

I can’t wait until things get back to normal.” I’ve heard this statement from several church leaders. The desire for “normal” includes a return to in-person worship, church programming and mission projects that have been upended by the ongoing pandemic.

However, for those who are yearning for the way things have “always” been, there will be disappointment. While the mission of communities of faith will remain the same, the way churches accomplish their mission will change in the months and years ahead. The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed congregations and their leaders to consider what it looks like to offer Christ to the world in a time of social distancing and post-pandemic.

In the article “Leading Beyond the Blizzard: Why Every Organization is Now a Startup”, Andy Crouch, Kurt Keilhacker and Dave Blanchard suggest that church leaders may find a way forward through the use of the metaphors “blizzard, winter and ice age”.

These metaphors fit for January in Michigan. As I write, I look out over snow-covered trees, weighed down by a thin layer of ice. Church leaders across Michigan experience similar views. I ask church leaders, “Is your church in a blizzard, the season of winter or an ice age?”

Crouch, Keilhacker and Blanchard described the early onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as a “blizzard”. It was an emergency and churches were called on to respond quickly. In-person worship was cancelled and, overnight, clergy and laity rose to the challenge of offering online worship. Meetings and classes moved to Zoom conferencing and mission efforts were redirected as needed. It was a blizzard, a crisis. We all sheltered in place, assuming that the emergency would end. The sun would come out and we’d return to what we had been doing before the storm.

And then it became clear that we were experiencing something more than a short-lived, paralyzing storm. We had entered a “winter” season. The authors write, “Winter might begin with a blizzard, but it is a season lasting months.” What do we do here in Michigan when winter comes? We prepare, we settle in and we wait for spring.