We’re slowly going back to pre-pandemic normal. Malls, dine-in restaurants, and other indoor establishments are now allowed to operate for larger capacity and even those below eighteen years old are freely moving around. Also, one of the most fantastic news this 2021 is that most of us no longer need to use our face shields! 

This also means that our worship services can now accommodate more people onsite. As we go back to our pre-pandemic way of living (with face masks on), we should also think about those who’ve already adjusted to the “pandemic normal”—those who are now comfortable in their homes, and enjoy and thrive on the online platform more than face-to-face. How can we help those who are struggling to go back to onsite fellowship?

There are multiple factors to consider in determining why others have a hard time adjusting. Maybe, they’ve seenzoned many of their friends or they’ve been kept off from all social media platforms. Maybe, they’re afraid or shy to go back. Or perhaps they believe that there’s no one to go back to. Whatever the cause, here are some tips on helping them ease back to connecting onsite again.

1. Help them process. 

Transitions are vital in any change of season in our lives. It is crucial that we don’t force anyone to change what they’re used to. One thing that you can offer is to help them process their situations. 

Help them process and navigate through their feelings and thoughts about what’s happening (whether that’s anxiety or fear) by asking questions. This way, you’re helping them transition gradually and carefully. Transitions can be messy, but it’s the only way for us to embrace our new reality and season as we move forward.

Help them process the present reality through the lens of future hope: One day, every tribe, nation, and tongue will confess and worship our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as one family (Revelation 7:9–10). And that in His presence, for eternity, there is no more sickness or pain, no more COVID or any of its variants, no more sin and shame. What will remain is only eternal fellowship with God and with everyone who eagerly awaits His coming.

2. Invite them to an organic gathering for fellowship.

No matter how many times they’ve seenzoned us, we can invite them to a face-to-face meetup or a small, organic gathering, because they’re always welcome. As we fellowship, we encourage one another to share lives and testimonies. And so we gather, even in small numbers because fellowship happens when we walk together, eat together, laugh together, cry together, believe together, and hope together. 

Communion also happens when we gather together in a fellowship. We don’t usually use communion in a sentence, but communion amplifies our experience and gives meaning in our fellowship. Oxford defines communion this way: the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level.

As a church community, we don’t just do fellowship and communion, but ultimately celebrate it. Communion reminds us of the gospel (1 Corinthians 11:23–26), and at the same time, we partake with the story of Jesus and His disciples in the Bible. And just like how we invite people to parties or events, we invite them to fellowship because we want to celebrate God’s faithfulness and grace in our lives through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

3. Pray for them.

The pandemic forced us to distance ourselves from one another physically, and sadly, many were tempted to isolate and stay distant from church community for good. Perhaps some have even done the very things they swore not to do—went back to their old lives.

Our job is not just to invite them but be a spiritual companion for them who’s willing to fight their unseen battles through prayer. We may never know what is happening to them entirely, but we trust that God was and is with them always. The apostle Paul knew that when all is said and done, prayer is still the best option (Colossians 1:9). 

Lasty, don’t give up on them.

If Jesus didn’t give up on us, let’s not give up on others, too. God’s perfect patience was displayed through our past, present, and even in our future. There’s nothing too small that we can do as we walk with someone—whether we help them process, invite them to an organic fellowship, or pray for them. 

They may have felt that God has abandoned them, or that we have abandoned them for a season, but that doesn’t mean God isn’t with them. We can be comforted with this truth and we can comfort others as well:

Even when we turn away from God, His love never changes and His presence remains available for them anytime they choose to turn back.

From the time I responded to the call of God to go into full-time ministry, I was never the same again. I remember the day when I finally said yes. I could no longer imagine anything beyond a life dedicated to serving God as a campus missionary in Far Eastern University. Little did I know that my journey in obeying God’s call would be filled with uncertainty, mystery, adventure, and surprises—all wrapped up in beautiful gifts that came my way, time and again: transitions.

You may not have gone into full-time ministry like I have, yet your calling is no less important. In the same way that I needed to seek God to know if I should work in the ministry or when it was time for me to move on to another season, you most likely also asked Him to direct you to where you are right now. And you will need to keep seeking Him as doors open or opportunities for redirection happen. 

Transitions are inevitable in life. Every transition calls for change—something that I didn’t really look forward to when I was younger. There’s always a new Victory group to start, a new campus to reach, a new role to learn, a new location to pray for, a new team to build relationships with, or a new season to embrace. But I learned to love transitions after several years of serving in the ministry, because they taught me to trust God rather than my own plans, timeline, and capacity. Your calling to be where you are now came in a unique way. It’ll be unique as well when God tells you it’s finally time to move on to a new season.

Some important lessons that I’ve learned over the years:

  1. We are all replaceable. God’s mission can move forward and His kingdom can grow without you in the picture. There are so many people out there who are way more passionate, extremely hardworking, naturally strategic, or simply better people than you that God can use to accomplish His purpose. I hope that this reminder makes us grateful for the privilege to be involved in building God’s kingdom at such a time as this, in spite of our imperfections. God gave us our roles, and He has the power to take them away from us when it’s time.
  1. We have a very limited time. As one author put it, “Time is a slippery commodity. You can’t hold on to it, and you can’t save it for future use. If you are not prepared to allocate this moment, it is gone forever. Time is here for a moment, and then it’s gone forever.” We have been entrusted with precious time. If we really think about it, more time is wasted, not in hours, but in what we do with the minutes given to us. Are your moments being spent in ways that contribute to fulfilling God’s calling in your life?

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12 (ESV) 

“Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath. We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.”

Psalm 39:4–6 (NLT)

  1. We need to prepare the next generation. If it’s time for you to go, what kind of legacy are you leaving? Will there be someone to take your place? What preparations are you intentionally doing now to make sure that he or she will be fit for the role one day? Invest in others and you will leave a lasting legacy. Yes, you may be replaceable, but you are also reproducible if you choose to reproduce yourself in the next generation. I remember one author saying, “Leadership success is measured by the success of your successor.” Even David, toward the end of his reign, knew the hard work that he needed to put in to prepare for the building of the temple before handing over his leadership to his son, Solomon.

“My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen, 

is young and inexperienced; and the work is great, 

because the temple is not for man but for the Lord God.”

1 Chronicles 29:1 (NKJV)

How will I know if it’s time to transition?

  1. Desire. You know it. You feel it. You are sometimes confused by it. But God is birthing a new desire in your heart. You may not exactly know what it is, but you know that your desires are starting to shift to something new, in order to serve God’s purpose in your life. And whether we are aware of it or not, God is always in the business of doing a new thing in our lives! 

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

How can I be sure that this desire is from the Lord? 

  1. God’s Word. God called Moses through a burning bush. Samuel heard His audible voice calling out his name three times. Mary met an angel delivering an important message from God. Paul encountered Jesus when he was blind. No matter the circumstance, God will let you know. One author says that, “Faith teaches us that there is a Person behind the universe, and that Person responds to communication just as all persons do.” Prayer is the primary way we communicate with God. When we pray, He hears us and He will answer. So pray. Seek the Lord. Discern His will for your life.

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. 

He will not rebuke you for asking.

James 1:5 (NLT) 

  1. Counsel. If you need wisdom, get wise counsel. Don’t try to figure things out on your own. Don’t make a biased decision based on your emotion or past experiences. Instead, seek counsel from those who know, love, and care about you. Ask a few wise and trusted people to speak wisdom and truth into your life. Learn to trust the God-given wisdom of our spiritual leaders.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 12:15 (ESV) 

What do I do while I wait on God?

  1. Be faithful. Your upcoming transition may not be immediate. So continue to embrace wholeheartedly what God has called you to do today. Learn as much as you can. Always remember that wherever you are today prepares you for where God will take you next. Whatever you’re building, build to last. Build bigger than yourself. Build a platform for the next generation to build on.
  2. Develop next-generation leaders. Identify those leaders. Instruct them well. Impart and pour out your life to them. Let them tag along and train them as your interns. Whatever you do, set them up for success. Develop leaders who are ten times better than you.
  3. Continue to build relationships intentionally. Do not burn bridges. Be all the more intentional in deepening friendships and connections with the people you’re working with today. Trust me, you will want to move on to the next season carrying lasting and meaningful friendships with you.
  4. Look for opportunities to continue to serve. If you believe in what we do in campus ministry, support campus missionaries. If time permits, volunteer to disciple students. Be a strategic connection or provide open doors to help our campus ministry (and advance God’s kingdom!) in whatever way you can.
  5. Trust the Lord. Trust His timing. Allow God’s plans to naturally unfold in your life on His terms and in His time. Trust also that He has great things in store for you in the next season, even if that means a different city, a new nation, a change in role or function, or maybe a life outside of the workplace.

Every transition is beautiful when God ordains it. There’s beauty in it when you learn to trust God and choose to obey. Oh, I pray that you witness how beautiful it is when you finally see the bigger picture of what He is doing in your life. I believe that every transition is a promotion from God: to be entrusted with more, to learn more, and above all else, to know God more. I am grateful that in the midst of all the change, I can hold on to this:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)