I can honestly say that I’ve never experienced a week quite like the one we just had in America. The coronavirus is changing our lives on a daily basis.
First, the CDC recommended no large group gatherings of more than 250 people, then 50 people, and last Monday the CDC said no gatherings of over 10 people. This has caused empty shelves at the grocery stores, schools and businesses to close, and churches to form new plans on what services will look like going forward.
I have no idea how long this will last, and I feel for the pastors who are struggling with how to do church online and who are worried about keeping their doors open. But I am encouraged by how the Church has come together during this time to help one another. If you are a pastor who is lost in this new place we find ourselves in, please reach out to me or another pastor who can help.
While I realize there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding the future, I can’t help but think this is ultimately going to be a good thing for the church. I believe God is giving us an opportunity to shine during this moment, and the message of the gospel will be on display each weekend like it’s never been before.
I also believe this is the kick in the pants that many churches have needed, including mine. Americans are spending more time online than ever before, and the church has lagged behind. Now, we’re being forced to learn how to connect with our communities online, or suffer the consequences.
Offering your services online is a great start, but it’s not enough. You and I have to find ways to engage with our congregations and communities even though we can’t gather in person.
So, how can we do that? Here’s a few ideas we’re going to try.
Utilize YouVersion Bible Plans. I love the YouVersion Bible app. It’s an incredible resource right now because it allows you to read and discuss Bible plans and devotionals with your friends.
Online Small Groups. There’s a variety of ways to take small groups online. Two of my favorites are Zoom and Google Hangouts. They both allow you connect live through video with a group. You could have a group that discusses the sermon each week, or pick a book and discuss a chapter each week.
Online Devotionals. You can post devotionals online, either live or pre-recorded. Doing them live allows you to engage with your audience in real-time, while pre-recording allows you to use others in your church who may not be comfortable doing something live just yet.
Online Crafts for Kids. Kids are spending a lot of time stuck at home right now, so why not provide content for them? Take a craft that you would normally do on a Sunday, and show them how to make it at home. Bonus points if you have a Bible story that connects with the craft.
Online Games. How creative can you get? Is it possible to do a trivia game online? What about family feud? Try to do something fun that will get people laughing.
Cooking/Fitness Videos. At this point, some of you may be thinking, what in the world is he thinking, we’re a church. I get that, and all of these ideas aren’t for everyone, but remember it’s more about providing content that connects and engages your community.
Show You Care. Even though you may not be meeting together, doesn’t mean ministry stops. Post pictures of your church serving in the community. It could be someone delivering groceries to an elderly couple, or stocking shelves at the local food bank.
Do Baptisms Online. Do you have someone wanting to get baptized? Invite them and their family (Less than 10) to the church and record it.
Make Phone Calls. I know this doesn’t count as online, but it’s still something you should be doing during this time. Call and check in with your congregation, especially those who are older. They may need something you can help with, or they may just need to talk. This crisis can be really scary, and many of them are going to feel isolated and alone, you can help fix that.
I don’t have any idea how long we may be doing church without gathering in person. I have a feeling it’s going to be longer that most of us would like. Regardless, the steps you take to get better at connecting online will be beneficial for years to come.
I am a husband, father, and executive pastor of a small town church that went big. I have a passion for helping pastors grow themselves and the churches they serve. You can find out more about me and my ministry at http://travisstephens.me