Photo by Nina Strehl on Unsplash
The past few weeks have been difficult for churches as many have been scrambling to adjust to the “new normal.” Church leaders have spent the bulk of their time figuring out Facebook Live, providing alternate giving methods, and finding creative ways to keep their church members connected. In many ways, churches have been focused on survival.
From Survival to Missional
By now, most churches have developed solutions for the necessities of worship, small groups, and giving. While church leaders must still monitor these vital ministries and make adjustments as needed, I believe that the church must quickly move from a survival mentality to a missional mentality.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, the church must rise up and become the hands and feet of Jesus during this difficult time. As followers of Jesus, we must love our neighbors in creative yet effective ways. Since the earlier post shared the biblical reasons why we need to reach out during this pandemic, this post will deal with the how.
Providing Help and Hope
Jesus ministered to folks by meeting their physical needs and spiritual needs. His followers must do the same. As we reach out to hurting people during this pandemic, we should seek to minister in two broad ways: by providing both physical help and spiritual hope.
Reaching Out With Help
Just like in Jesus’ day, there are physical needs all around us. The COVID-19 pandemic has simply elevated the urgency of those needs among certain populations. Therefore, churches should look to provide physical help to three primary groups: (1) vulnerable populations, (2) frontline workers, and (3) the community at large.
Vulnerable populations. This pandemic has been particularly challenging for the oldest among us and the youngest. For our senior adults, most are quarantined for the foreseeable future and unable to purchase basic necessities. Similarly, many children may not have enough food to eat now that school is not in session, and the church can work to meet those needs as well. Here are some ideas to meet the needs of the vulnerable populations among us:
- Deliver groceries, prescriptions, and care packages to the elderly in the community.
- Pick up supplies for others who have self-isolated.
- Work with local Family Resource Centers to identify needs and/or arrange delivery of food and other necessities to needy children.
- Offer free online tutoring for kids to give teachers a much-needed break.
- Identify lines of communication with vulnerable populations in order to discover any needs they may have.
Frontline workers. While many have either lost their job or have begun working remotely, there are some who still must work around other people. Health care workers, grocery store employees, fast food restaurants, convenience store clerks, and many other public sector workers are making necessary sacrifices, and they deserve our utmost appreciation. Here are some ideas for reaching out to them:
- Write messages of thanks and encouragement.
- Provide small gifts of appreciation (coffee, beverage, or pastry).
- Sew masks and give to them.
- Offer to pray with them (at an appropriate social distance away).
- Donate any personal protective equipment you can spare.
Community at large. Churches can also reach out in other ways to your community at large by performing random acts of kindness. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Volunteer to sanitize shopping carts at a local grocery store.
- Volunteer to sanitize gas pumps at a service station.
- Leave notes on front doors offering help to your neighbors (with appropriate contact information).
- Conduct a food drive for needy families.
- Promote your church’s willingness to help anyone in need on social media.
There are many other ways to provide help for your neighbors during this pandemic. Comment below with other ideas!
Reaching Out With Hope
While many of the physical needs in your community are urgent, the spiritual needs are even more so. Many people are worried. Many are anxious. Many are depressed. Many are hopeless. But, as followers of Jesus Christ, we have an eternal hope! During this pandemic, we have an open door to share that hope with others. Churches can provide hope in at least three ways: (1) prayer, (2) sharing messages of hope, (3) providing ways to connect with others.
Prayer. Before the pandemic, asking the simple question, “How can I pray for you?” often opened the door to many gospel conversations. If possible, folks are even more open to prayer now than before. Don’t waste that opportunity. Here are some ways to provide hope through prayer:
- Setup a prayer hotline for your church by posting a contact number (church number or Google Voice number) on social media and in public places for those who need prayer.
- Conduct online prayer gatherings through a video conferencing app such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, or Facetime.
- Post your willingness to pray with anyone who needs it on social media.
- Conduct drive-thru prayer stations (with appropriate social distancing).
- Create pandemic-specific prayer guides and offer them to your church and community to cry out to the Great Physician during this difficult season.
Messages of hope. In these challenging times, the church has an amazing opportunity to give a reason for the hope that we have in us. Here are some ways to share this hope with others right now:
- Provide online streaming of your church’s worship services.
- Post daily 60-second videos and messages of hope on social media.
- Consistently post Scripture verses on your church’s social media pages and encourage your church members to share them.
- Broadcast your services on local television and radio.
- Start a blog and write posts to encourage others.
Connection points. I have heard others say that although we may be socially distancing, we don’t need to be socially isolating. For many, being healthy at home presents some relational challenges. Here are some ideas to provide hope by connecting folks with each other:
- Encourage small groups to meet online via Zoom or another video conferencing app.
- Invite guests who interact during your online worship services to connect with an online small group.
- Post pics of church members regularly on your church’s social media pages.
- Develop a system to ensure that all members (especially senior adults) receive a phone call from another church member at least once per week.
- Encourage church members to post selfies on social media while viewing online worship services and use a church-designated hashtag.
Now is the Time
Ed Stetzer wrote recently, “We have reached that time when we are either going to live up to the words or we must stop talking about kingdom mission and evangelism. How we respond to this crisis will go a long way to determine if there is an evangelicalism moving forward.” In other words, now is the time for the church to be the church. To reach out to others by providing help and hope. Just like Jesus. Let’s get to work!