I would have pulled out my notebook from seminary on how to lead a church through an international pandemic, but, like everyone else, I didn’t have that class. I am making it up as we go along. You are too. I have benefitted from hearing ideas from other places, and I thought maybe this list could help you.
As a staff, we decided that we would dig in deep and give our best efforts despite the unique circumstances.
Here are some of the creative quarantine ideas for church that actually worked:
- Consider leading your service in a unique setting. Your sanctuary might be the best place to conduct your online services, but your presentation might be received better in a smaller environment. Make it feel like the people leading and the people following at home are circled up together.
- Preach to the camera. Your people aren’t in the room with you; they are in their living room. Look at the camera, and talk to them. Yes, it is awkward, but it translates so much better. If you can, I encourage creative locations. You have families trying to keep the kids together without the nursery volunteers with them – your creativity can help them out!
- Pre-record your services. You will get better quality and reduce the risk of technological glitches.
- Consider your content. Yes, you need to address the COVID-19, but that’s not all you need to address. Honestly, your people probably need to have their gaze fixed in another direction and not obsess over it like the rest of society. Acknowledge it, and then point to the truth more than the trouble.
- Use church members for worship service elements. It is easy to involve people outside of your staff. Assign members (young and old) to record themselves reading Scripture, praying, singing, or giving announcements. They share it with you, and you put it in the service. It is an easy yet meaningful addition!
- Make service connections simple. We have utilized Vimeo, Facebook, and a new TV app to make it easy for our people to connect. I have been blown away by how many more people are connecting to our services online than regular or those who are physically there on typical or atypical Sundays.
- Design drive-thru services. If your parking lot is conducive for such a service with the size of your church membership, consider this option via an adequate sound system or an FM transmitter to car radios. Our Spanish service has done great with this format because the size is right.
- Create Zoom groups. Many churches are utilizing Zoom for small groups to gather. I have been amazed at how well all ages have connected after we provided simple instructions to connect. I had one senior adult tell me, “This isn’t ideal, but this is so much better than nothing – thank you so much!”
- Setup online game nights. Your people are stir crazy, so help them connect with your church family for some plain and simple fun. We designed a few games (Code Names and Scattegories) to work with your computer’s presentation software and Zoom for our small groups to have game nights. Our people have loved it!
- Create ways to connect to counseling. Setup a way for people to request counseling over the phone or Zoom. Real needs are still happening.
- Invade Zoom groups. While your people are connecting with one another, they need to see and hear their pastors more than just the talking head giving the sermon via video. I have tried to pop-in on many of our small groups to have 5-10 minutes to say hello, share some news, tell them I love them, and pray for them. This step has probably meant the most to our people (and such a relief to me because I see they are caring for one another).
- Equip members to serve as their neighborhood chaplains. Your people may want to reach their neighborhoods, but they are unsure of how. Give them a guide to get started. Here is a guide we used, and you are welcome to it.
- Display support from the hospital parking lot. So you can’t visit someone in the hospital, but can you meet them in the parking lot? Can you figure out if their window can see the parking lot? Get a poster and get creative!
- Organize a phone tree. Yep, you remember those, don’t you? Especially considering your seniors, have a system in place to check in with those more susceptible to sickness and least likely to get online information.
- Create a way to communicate needs. There are people in your church who have a need and those who can meet a need. Design a way where you can collect both sides and connect them together.
- Initiate drive-by blessings. Assign some of your people to bless your members on their porches with groceries, flowers, and chalk-written messages.
- Provide interactive content on your social media. Don’t just talk to your people; talk with your people. People have more time on their hands right now. If they are on social media, give them something worthwhile in which to connect.
- Provide some laughs. Don’t be cheesy or controversial, but we all could use a chuckle or two right now. It is acceptable to get your people to laugh a little bit.
- Create online prayer groups. People need to connect with God, but maybe they don’t know what to say. Gather them together online and pray.
- Conduct online groups & studies. With people full of concerns, create some short-term studies to help people deal with their anxiety and fears.
- Design special content for age groups. Don’t forget about the up-and-coming generations. Have your leaders drop a note or a surprise in some mailboxes or front porches. Our team has created unique ways on Zoom or Facebook for our kids to connect with Jesus, their teachers, and each other. Our youngest to our oldest upcoming generations have craved this time together.
- Remind people to give without being manipulative. The church knows this time is unsure for everyone. It is OK to remind them to give, but just don’t be weird about it. Make sure you give them clear instructions regarding how to give online or another option.
- Conduct new member meetings online. Over the last few weeks, we have connected with new folks, and we actually conducted a new members class and had a great new batch of folks join. Our staff conducted personal interviews with them to hear salvation stories, and I taught the entire class via Zoom. I was amazed at how well it went. These people didn’t want to wait to join the family any longer.
- Update your membership information. Create a way to go through your roles and ensure you have updated information on everyone as you check in on them.
I hope these ideas can help you or help spur on ideas of your own. Let’s keep advancing the gospel together!