With the rise of COVID-19 around the world, it has caused everyone to get creative quickly. In ministry and church settings, we have been asked not to gather for a few weeks, but we are also aware that it could be longer.
Many ministry leaders I have spoken with regret not having some things in place currently. They were going to get around to certain tech methods one day, but this pandemic makes them wish they had done it sooner.
Don’t panic. Don’t regret. Don’t become immobilized.
All of us are trying to figure out what to do right now. You are not alone.
While there are a lot of needs you need to meet, and many things you must consider, I wanted to share some tangible ways you can allow this mandated quarantine to force ministry innovation.
11 Considerations for Ministry Innovation
- Establish channels to communicate quickly and clearly. Most of your congregation is on some social media platforms and has an email address. Your database should be updated with current information and set up where you can communicate with your congregation remotely, quickly, and clearly. Remember that some are auditory learners and others are visual learners. The more specific you can make your communication, the easier everyone will feel. We use Planning Center People as our database, and I am so thankful that we moved all of our communication over to this cloud-based platform that can be updated and transmitted easily.
Revamp your website. While a situation that keeps you unable to gather may not last long, you still need a way to communicate with your people. Make your homepage the ground control. Give your people all the information they need and make it SIMPLE. You cannot over-communicate during times of change.
- Livestream encouragement to your congregation. Whether you want to post a message from a pastor or Livestream an actual service, you can do it. There is a ton of expensive equipment and complex systems out there, but if you have a smartphone, you can set up a Facebook Live event or Livestream through YouTube as a non-profit. It doesn’t have to look great, but make sure it looks decent and the audio is clear. Practice a few times.
- Setup video conferencing for your groups. Use a free resource like Zoom to enable video conferencing (free for 25 participants and up to 40 minutes [sometimes they waive that] or paid versions). With a phone, tablet, or computer, your small groups can gather together over video or audio. Nothing is like gathering together physically, but you would be surprised at how well it can work and how well your people can learn it. Our group had a great, meaningful, and fun time the first time we tried it together.
- Make online giving simple. In times of a crisis, you need to be prepared that giving will go down. If you can’t gather physically and don’t have an online option to give, your giving will go down even more. There are many options to start this service, but if you are a Baptist church in South Carolina, the Baptist Foundation can start you on a platform to get going quickly. Don’t be timid to remind people to give online, through text, or through the mail.
- Provide a way to communicate needs. You have some in your congregation who have a need and others who can meet a need. Use either a signup form, event registration, or one email to coordinate how you can partner your church together to bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).
- Call every single senior adult. While more senior adults are tech-savvy than the world gives them credit, some are not as easy to connect over these mediums. Establish a call tree to communicate information with every single senior adult. Discern if they can read info from the website; if so, encourage them to go online, read, and ask any questions. If not, communicate the information specific to them one-by-one. Take extra care of your seniors during times like these.
- Equip your parents with family discipleship resources. While family discipleship should be a priority at all times, the inability to meet provides greater opportunities. Provide a way that parents can access a lesson, use embedded videos, play purposeful games, etc. We provided our weekly lesson to our parents so they can teach each week’s lesson at home. We also provide opportunities for kids to video-conference on their parents’ accounts. They need to see their friends too.
- Create a way to share good ideas. Your people are doing good things at home, but they all don’t know about it. They need a platform to share good ideas with each other. Highlight stories in your communication that you know about. Provide some type of online platform to share ideas. Use a hashtag on social media to give common insight (we used #RCtogether).
- Encourage a missional perspective. Tell your people to look for one neighbor that your family can help. The church cannot insulate during this time, but we must remain on the mission. If you struggle during times like these and you have faith, how do you think those without faith are doing? Lead your families to look for opportunities to serve, share, and encourage their neighbors.
- Communicate truth during trials. As I watch government, business, and church leaders share with people during this time, I realize that what people are looking for is authentic hope. We are not looking for someone to act like it is OK when it is not. We are not looking for someone to sink down into despair either. We want to hear, “This situation is hard, but God is good. We will make it through.” A church will follow its leader’s demeanor. Lead well.
Those are some practical steps to connect as a church when you can’t gather physically. Whatever you do, don’t take the easy way out. Work hard. Communicate. Stay all-in with your people. You will make it through whatever challenge comes your way. Just try to make it through together.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.