In recent days, there have been a dizzying number of updates about the coronavirus that have seemed to come at the top of every hour. As major events, mainstays of the spring calendar, and even daily routines like going to work and school are getting upended or indefinitely postponed, it’s enough to stun you into a state of inaction. It’s overwhelming and it’s okay that it’s overwhelming.
And now, for most pastors and church leaders, there is a scramble to figure out how to keep ministry happening when public health officials are calling for us all to avoid larger gatherings, limit physical contact and practice social distancing.
But that’s not what this post is about. We need to accept that this is going to be a significant disruption to life for at least the next few weeks and possibly months.
This moment calls for an entirely new way of thinking about ministry. Not panicking but demonstrating the utmost prudence, wisdom and creativity.
Your church does more than give a lecture and entertain with music. The Body of Christ and the local church is an embodiment of God’s presence in the world. We gather to encourage and pray for one another. We meet to study scripture and serve one another. We approach the altar to serve and be served communion.
In order to keep being and doing all that Jesus has called the Church to be, we will need more than a live stream and a weekly email update.
My own church meets on the campus of a state university. That school has announced the end of all in-person classes and is limiting group gatherings of more than 100 people at a time, in an effort to limit the exposure and possibly transmission of a pandemic disease. We’re still figuring out what that means for our church of 400 people. So I completely understand what pastors and churches are having to think through right now.
Our encouragement is that you can rise to this challenge.
A disruption like this is an opportunity to see your community, your church and your own ability to contribute to the building of God’s Kingdom with fresh eyes.
We need to elevate our thinking beyond patchwork solutions that get us through a few weeks where we can’t meet in our building.
We need fresh inspiration from God’s Spirit to creatively, uniquely and with hopeful resolve reach out and meet people in real, tangible ways. God has given us everything we need to move into unknown circumstances.
Here are a few ideas that you might start with as you continue planning for a fresh and inspired way of being the church if you aren’t able to gather on Sunday mornings for some time:
- Going online for a service is a great starting point. Don’t limit your thinking and planning to just Sunday services.
- Rally your church to think about those who are at the highest risk if they were to be exposed to the virus. Make telephone calls, set up grocery delivery and write them notes. Social isolation in these circumstances can lead to loneliness, anxiety and depression.
- In addition to an online service, set up a network of “house churches,” places were groups of 10-15 people can gather to watch the service together, pray and even take communion. Encourage existing small group leaders to organize these gatherings while still keeping them small and practicing good hygiene based on recommendations.
- If schools or daycares are closing in your area, start organizing ways for parents to find alternate childcare options. Safety is critically important, so don’t skip any steps when it comes to screening and accountability. The most concrete way to love families may be by relieving the burden of totally disrupted schedules and being stuck between earning a paycheck and staying home with kids who can’t go to school.
- Food insecurity is a real issue for many kids and families. If schools are closing, connect with local organizations that are already working in that space. Make donations of food and finances to help relieve the burden or even think about how you can contribute to distribution and awareness.
- Give updates regularly. The Church has a real and genuine source of confidence, hope and joy. These are the precise moments where the goodness and faithfulness of God can shine brightest through His people. By calmly and confidently communicating updates, praying, offering encouragement and rallying the church to do good and be hopeful, we can bring light into circumstances and moments that feel dark to the world around us.
- Start an online community for your congregation. You want people to be able to stay connected with each other and you as leaders. Start a Facebook group as a centralized place to keep relationships going, communicate updates and resource your people to share the love and hope of Jesus.
- Decide what your digital ministry strategy will be. More than ever, people need hope. And thanks to technology, each church has the opportunity to share hope on a daily basis. This is your new ministry strategy. This is your new ministry goal. Will you write a daily blog post and share it on social media? Start going live consistently with a message of encouragement and perspective? Resource your congregation with messages of hope to share? Give people a place where they can go to find peace online.
What questions do you have? What support do you need? Our team is ready to respond today and in the coming days. Feel free to email us.
Also, we will be offering a discounted rate for our services to anyone that needs support in March or April related to COVID-19 planning and communicating.
Praying for you and with you.