COVID-focused online event helps pastors confront the question: What if the faithful don’t come back?

Online Weekend College - What if they Don't Come Back: Pastoring Through Pandemic

The Center for Anabaptist Leadership and Learning at Hesston College, also known as CALL, will host David Fitch, Betty R. Lindner Chair of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary, Chicago, Ill., for a special online Weekend College event for pastors, congregational leaders and conference leaders on February 20, 2021. The event is titled “What If They Don’t Come Back? Pastoring through COVID.” Event attendance is open to all. Those interested in attending can register online at

Dr. Fitch, who is also an author at Missio Alliance and founding pastor of Life on the Vine Christian Community in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, will open the event by leading a discussion on the topic, “What Does It Mean to be the Church?” In light of the ongoing pandemic, pastors may be struggling to balance the pressures of keeping their congregations safe while simultaneously keeping their congregations going. The Church needs strategies for managing the growing anxiety of pastors and church leaders that some people may not come back when it is safe to be together. Fitch will help attendees understand how they might find ways to be the Church even if it may look different than it did before COVID.

Hesston College Bible and Ministry prof Michele Hershberger will then lead attendees in an interactive hour of spiritual guidance, self-care and surrender, exploring the principles of the 12 Steps as they apply to John the Baptist and all of us. Can something as disruptive as COVID be an opportunity for new life? Can believers grieve well, let go and look forward?

In the afternoon, Jessica Schrock-Ringenberg, director of the CALL program at Hesston College, will lead pastors and congregational leadership teams through a coaching session to help them work through their challenges and identify the unique opportunities COVID has presented the Church within each particular congregational context.

“I have heard from so many pastors about the burden and anxiety of ministry in the midst of a pandemic,” said Schrock-Ringenberg. “We have a unique opportunity to learn from each other how we can be the Church in such a historical time. If ever the Church was handed a gold ticket for renewal and reformation, it’s now. I just hope we take it, join each other, learn from each other and help carry each other forward.”