By J.J. McQueen
Pre-pandemic, the data on millennial church-goers had begun to trend downward. So much so that faith leaders, pastors, and church members around the world had also taken notice. The disconnect/mass exit had church communities wondering how they would win young people back to the house of worship. Especially those under the care of Black faith leaders.
Since the beginning of time, the spiritual life of Black people has been a pivotal part of African-American culture, the part of life that faith leaders of all ethnic backgrounds will argue that society can’t live without.
Which leaves the questions of, who led young Black church-goers during the Pandemic? Where are they now? Who kept them engaged?
Those are all questions that Pastor Trevor Chin and the staff at Epiphany Church of Baltimore worked diligently to find answers to. Being among a group of millennial faith leaders, Chin and Lead Pastor Charlie Mitchel were able to make the abrupt adjustments that many churches and pastors weren’t able to make.
Being a setup and breakdown ministry at the League of Baltimore location, the Epiphany team was already in the flow of doing the heavy lifting of ministry. However, just like the rest of the world, the routine of regular church would be changed forever by the pandemic.
In understanding the role of their existence within the East Baltimore community, Epiphany’s leadership team made a hard pivot by embracing the learning curve and the use of technology.
Why was this such a seamless transition for churches like Epiphany? Unlike other ministries that used previously technology less because of the age of its members, budget restraints, or customary reasons, Epiphany had nothing that stopped them from connecting with the people. Largely due to being led by millennials that were unafraid of breaking new ground on navigating those factors.
“We recognized that going online would connect us with people that have never heard of us or never got the chance to visit in person,” Pastor Chin said. “So, we tried to lean into creativity and develop online resources for people’s families.”
The measures taken by Chin and Epiphany proved to be vital for the local and online communities. With a shortage of jobs as a result of the pandemic, the church was also able to coordinate food and resource drives for city and county residents.
“The pandemic showed how far behind the church world was in technology and with its online presence, which leads me to think that we need to have a conversation about discipleship and spiritual formation,” Chin said. “Scheduled days of worship can’t be the only days that people get fed. Seeing people become ‘self-feeders’ and able to lead their households/families is a passion and a goal for Epiphany.”
An additional passion for the Epiphany leaders is keeping the young people of the church engaged. Something that is a genuine and growing concern for ministries around the world.
Over the past two years, Chin’s ministry got creative in their approach with young people. They allowed their congregants to operate in their gifts. In doing so, they were able to maintain the attention of their young audience.
How did this happen?
“We did some research and got coaching on how to engage with young people online from online youth pastors,” Chin said. “This was important for us because our next generation will be getting the majority of their information from a screen.”
While balancing the pandemic and keeping their church family healthy, the leadership of the Epiphany got creative with their main touchless in-person event ‘Let it Burn Conversations’.
This was unique to the pandemic. It was a platform to have conversations with leaders about how to emotionally process through political, social, and racial unrest.
“We needed a place to communicate and share our hearts,” Chin said. “This was an honest and open/transparent place and one that deepened some relationships.”
Through the highs and lows of the days of the pandemic, Pastors Chin and Mitchel are grateful to the new skills that they’ve gained as a result of the challenge.
“With the amount of new skills that I’ve learned because of the necessity of going online, there are things I can do now that I would have never thought I could do before. From video shooting and editing, to communicating behind a camera,
[laughing] it’s not as easy as it looks. I’m grateful that we are on the way out of it, but through whatever is next on the horizon, I pray that the big ‘C’
] will adjust, adapt, and maintain faithful to this mission in any format.”
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