Worship in the Time of COVID
Photo by Jamie Alexander
David Rodgers understands that in ministry, there is much more to the calling than Sunday morning.
Raised in a minister’s home, Rodgers’ father was a minister, his grandfather was a minister, and several other family members led in youth ministries or as the pastor of a church.
In high school, Rodgers can remember experiencing the call to ministry himself, a decision that came as he was contemplating where to go to college.
“It was almost like God was saying, ‘Look what I prepared you for, look what you have been wired to love, I created you for this.’ At that moment, it was one of the easiest decisions I have made. I committed my life to ministry at 17,” Rodgers said.
Decades later, the lessons passed from one generation to the next have stayed with Rodgers into adulthood.
“I grew up seeing all of that, what it was like to be in ministry as the minister’s kid,” Rodgers said. “My grandfather was a music minister at Yellow Creek Baptist Church. He is still there as the minister of senior adults.”
Rodgers attended college at Campbellsville University, earning a degree in Church Music. He earned his Master’s degree in Discipleship Ministry at Liberty Seminary.
After that, everything moved in fast forward.
“In one month’s time, I got married, graduated college, and came to Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. Everything happened that one year,” Rodgers said.
Rodger’s wife, Kristy, is right beside him, serving in ministry, too.
“I couldn’t do any of it without her; she has always served in the church. If I am on stage and the spotlight is on me, she is always behind the scenes serving. She’s a huge part of the church driving things forward,” Rodgers said.
When Rodgers came to Pleasant Grove in 2008, he never could have imagined all the growth and innovation he would be a part of.
“From the beginning, our church has had the same mission of impacting the ever-changing culture with the never-changing love of Christ. What that meant is our methods and the way we do things have to constantly be adaptive, innovative and changing if we want to reach a culture that is constantly changing,” Rodgers said.
As music minister for more than 12 years, Rodgers describes his music as his passion. When he came to the church, his congregation was led by a piano and an organ. Today, they are led by a full praise band.
“We looked around the community—to take a truth that never changes and bring it to people where they are. Reaching people of today, but intentionally paving the way for those that come behind us,” Rodgers said.
Rodgers took the vision of reaching the next generation and added multiple praise bands, a full choir, and lights.
“We want to create beauty in worship to help tell the story. Those things don’t make worship any more meaningful, but they can help tell the story in a way that reaches people of today,” Rodgers said.
Learning to keep his focus the same in an ever-changing world taught Rodgers lessons that would sustain him, altering the way churches met, and causing a reevaluation that led to many blessings in disguise.
“As a church, we have always been open to the idea of whatever tool it takes, Jesus is worth it. We want to proclaim who He is to the best of our ability. We had to adapt more this past year than all of my other years in ministry combined,” Rodgers said.
When the pandemic hit in March 2020, reflection would happen quickly for Rodgers, who says hope was something people needed more than anything. In the midst of so much uncertainty, Rodgers leaned into new methods.
“We moved in, we had the first service in our new building and then the pandemic happened. Two months into the closure, we ended up getting our new pastor. We had a new leader, a new facility and society as a whole had a whole new norm,” Rodgers said.
One way that Rodgers said his church adapted to the pandemic was by creating social media ministries. Numerous weekly gatherings met multiple times during the day on Facebook, offering a safe way for their congregation to grow in community and connection.
“We chose to lean into what we knew to be certain. Yes, there is fear, there is uncertainty, but we have to be fluid and adapt. People really need each other,” Rodgers said.
Groups offered include the Man Cave, Thrive Women, Behind the Grove for volunteers, a deacons-led Bible study, Groves Kids Moment, Mission Mondays, Pleasant Recipes, and Senior Stories.
“We want to keep unity in the church, maintain the passion for people and grow together. We remained faithful in our mission but were forced to adapt the strategy in that,” Rodgers said.
They had to look really deeply at the way they did things, both on Sunday mornings and beyond.
“We refused to sit back or be idle, which led to new methods. We aren’t going to stand still. The Great Commission was never put on hold; it was still our job to proclaim that,” Rodgers said
Another strategy the worship minister used in response to the uncertain times of COVID was worship circles around the city. An innovative way to gather safely with other musicians, these worship circles created a unique sound using different groups of people in different locations.
“My goal in the realm of music is to provide a seat at the table for everybody— something for all ages. Providing something kids like, senior adults like— something that is beneficial for growth and development. I picture a good family meal,” Rodgers said.
This picture brought Rodgers and the worship circles to a hayloft, a soybean field with combines harvesting in the background, a men’s night with numerous men gathering to create a unique worship sound, and even led to serving communion online.
“This is something the church has never done. Look at this tool that God has blessed us with; it’s almost shameful that we weren’t utilizing it better before,” Rodgers said.
It’s no surprise that this past year has forever changed the church; Rodgers says they will not go back to not using this tool.
“Relationships and connections are huge. When people are saturated with loneliness and uncertainty, they need connection. We made changes to keep the body of Christ together even though we couldn’t gather,” Rodgers said.
As far as what fuels his passion, Rodgers loves to watch the transformation in others take place.
“When I see real heart changes and transformation in someone’s life…faith that can’t help but to inspire action. When I see people love God and that’s lived out by loving other people, that’s something that makes it easy to say I’ll go another 12 years,” Rodgers said.