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Changed in His Presence

 LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT AND DISCIPLESHIP MINISTRIES

As of March 18, confirmed coronavirus cases have exceeded 219,000, while more than 8,000 deaths have been reported across the world.   Every continent (except Antarctica) has been impacted.  

As pastors and ministry leaders, we face novel ministry challenges during this crisis. Governments are restricting how many people may gather for meetings.  They are suggesting that citizens practice “social distancing,” which means that many people are staying inside their homes to avoid contamination. Yet, as the title of one pastoral blog states, “Don’t Quarantine the Great Commission.” While we may have to change our ministry methods, our mission remains.  In fact, Carey Nieuwhof, pastor of Connexus Church in Toronto, Canada reminds us, “In times of crisis, make your mission central.” 

Yesterday I spoke with several COGOP pastors in North America and in Europe asking, “What is your church doing to stay on mission during this time of crisis?” These pastors provided discerning insights and practical suggestions that might be beneficial to you as you think through how to fulfill the mission of the church.

 

ON MISSION—WORSHIP

My church is still meeting on Sunday mornings.  How do I assure that individuals are protected from contamination when they come together?

  • Do a deep clean and disinfect. Pastor Barry Hutchinson has increased the frequency of church deep cleans at Cornerstone Community Church in West Midlands, United Kingdom. The Center for Disease Control offers some good information on cleaning, disinfecting, and other preventive measures.  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/cleaning-disinfection.html
  • Rethink social interaction that could lead to the spread of the virus. Churches are known for hugs, handshakes, congregational singing, praying for one another, and sharing communion.  If your church is still continuing to meet, continue engaging in these activities in ways that won’t spread the virus. Provide hand sanitizer throughout the building to encourage good hygiene.

 

My church has discontinued all meetings.  How can we continue to provide worship and Word opportunities?

  • Most of the pastors I spoke with are livestreaming or recording and uploading worship services, Bible studies, and devotionals to an internet platform. Your church may not have state of the art equipment, but don’t let that stop you. If nothing else, record using your phone and upload to Facebook, YouTube or Instagram.
  • Don’t forget that tithing and giving is part of worship. While you won’t be “passing the plate,” provide online giving opportunities to your congregation through the church website, PayPal, or Cash App.
  • Remember to include children and youth. Bridge of Hope Church in Greensboro, North Carolina is providing Next Gen Bible studies and other worship and study opportunities to the youth and children of their congregation via social media.
  • At The Hub Church in Hoboken, New Jersey, the men’s and women’s groups, as well as other small groups, are meeting online through ZOOM.

 

ON MISSION—RELATIONSHIP 

Keep relationships alive in your local church with some of these ideas:

  • Both the Breezewood Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina and College Park Church in Greenville, South Carolina have formed Connection Teams. Pastor Mark Wagnon (College Park) says, “The Connection Teams will be calling our members weekly to see how they’re doing and how we can pray with them in regard to their faith, finances, or family.”
  • Pastor Jeremiah Barker of Abingdon, Indiana has themed their efforts, “Care versus Fear.” He is intensifying home visits to members of the congregation and mobilizing others to do the same.
  • The Next Gen ministry at Bridge of Hope has mobilized its students to connect with senior members during the crisis. Each student is assigned a senior and is responsible to connect weekly, pray with the senior, and check to see if there is a need to be met. 
  • The Hub Church has created DNA groups that hold one another accountable for discipleship and nurture via social media.The church is also encouraging online interaction with members through discussion questions, challenges, and polls.

 

ON MISSION—FAMILY

While families are cloistered together in their homes, local churches are providing inspiration and resources to help the family focus on their mission. Pastor Joshua Gilliland, Internationale Jesus Gemeinde in Langen, Germany responds, “Our big reminder for our congregation is that this is a time to bring new fresh encounters with the Holy Spirit back in the home. We will supply what we can as a church but let new habits and revival breakout in our families, in our homes.”

  • Pastor Barry Hutchinson’s church is providing a downloadable weekly family devotion for every family in his congregation.
  • Bridge of Hope is asking each family in the local church to create a video about family life during this time of being together and post it on the church’s FB page.
  • With school being out of session, encourage families to do a “circle time” everyday. Circle time might include a Scripture verse, sharing prayer concerns, and praying together.
  • Offer ways that every family in your congregation can serve during this crisis. Some service ideas the family can do together—
    • Create a crisis prayer list and pray through it together each day
    • Select a Scripture for the day and text it to family and friend
    • Create a care package for a needy family that contains necessary food and supplies as well as a board game or puzzle

 

ON MISSION—COMMUNITY

So often we have challenged one another to get out of the four walls of our church.  Now there are abundant opportunities to do so and an audience more willing to hear.

  • Sharon Faruggia, associate pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Knoxville, Tennessee, created a letter that she shared with every neighbor in her community letting them know that she was available to help them in any way and providing contact information. She encouraged families of the local church to do the same for their neighbors.
  • Bridge of Hope’s creative ministries team is continually updating a list of free resources that are being offered throughout the city. The list is made available to the congregation and community via social media. Many organizations and businesses are offering free lunches, internet, subscriptions, medical services, etc.  Let’s get the word out to our communities.
  • Pastor Barker has created a church sign letting the community know that, although the church doors are closed, their church is available for connection, prayer, or to meet a need.
  • Many of our congregations have ministries that continue serving the community during this crisis. Pastor Hutchinson’s church continues to provide meals at their soup kitchen as “carry-out” rather than “sit down.”
  • Meet a recognized need. Bethesda Worship Center in Sheridan, Wyoming is providing gift cards for food to students who have been left on the college campus. Pastor Scott Lee adds, “We are also canvassing a low income trailer park, making sure they are well and helping them get whatever is needed.” 
  • Get connected with a community organization that is offering a needed service to families. Pastor Barker’s church is partnering with Feed My Lambs, a local organization that provides after school and weekend snack packs to needy children, a service that has increased the number of meals and participants while schools are closed.
  • Engage the community in the online ministry you are doing by encouraging members to share your church’s livestream or recorded sessions with neighbors and friends.

 

This crisis will pass.  But while it is here, let’s proactively engage in mission—providing ministry and intimate connections with cloistered congregants, strengthening families, and serving lost and needy people.  Let’s remain focused on our mission through unique, creative methods.

AUTHOR | KATHRYN H. CREASY: EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT AND DISCIPLESHIP 

 

 

 

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