It took away sports. It took away restaurants and gyms. And, perhaps most alarming, it took away weekend church services. But Jesus didn’t qualify the Great Commission. There is no pause button for a pandemic. Outreach must continue. Discipleship must keep happening. The good news is this: there are plenty of ways local churches can share the love of Jesus during this season. Here are five strategies for reaching people when you have to stay at least six feet apart.
This might seem obvious, but every local church should keep meeting in order to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24–25). Of course, in many places, this can’t mean meeting in person.
In the first century, it was Rome’s highways system that allowed the gospel to spread across the ancient world. Today, we have Zoom software, Facebook, YouTube, and a slew of other web resources. And just like those ancient roads, these internet-based tools are allowing us to reach more people than ever before.
Yes, it can be awkward to preach into a camera rather than to a room full of faces, but good Bible teaching is good Bible teaching (and it’s needed now more than ever). So, embrace the camera and the lack of a live audience as part of your calling in these strange times.
Let Them Know We Are Christians By Our Love.
Nearly everyone is struggling in some way because of the pandemic. If there ever was a time for the church to follow Jesus’ command to “let your light shine before others,” it’s right now (Matthew 5:16 NIV).
Find out what local hospitals, clinics, food pantries, and shelters need. Then mobilize your congregation to help. Mobile donations, drop-offs, and online orders mean a lot that can be done without having physical contact with others. Build a relationship with these organizations as you can, so they know your church can be counted on for the duration of this crisis and beyond.
When Paul and other apostles wanted to bring instruction or encouragement to a local church but couldn’t do so in person because of distance or imprisonment, they sent letters, many of which are now part of the New Testament. These leaders didn’t forego their ministry; they simply adapted its form to what would work in the moment.
With children’s ministry all but gone, youth groups on hiatus, and small groups often relegated to abbreviated Zoom meetings, now is the time to embrace digital resources. Those lessons, worksheets, and activities that were created for Sunday school classes that are no longer happening? Parents will love being able to do them with their kids. Use closed social media groups to exchange prayer requests. Share a Bible reading plan through YouVersion or another Bible app.
Just keep thinking. Start with the need, and then explore digital opportunities to fill that need. It may not be like the ministry programs you had before the pandemic, but it should still feel like ministry.
Equip the Saints.
In the early Church, when Christians were expelled from Rome (see Acts 18:2), it didn’t mean the end of the Roman church; it meant the Roman church was now spread across the empire. Ministry didn’t stop. It multiplied. Similarly, local churches have been expelled from their buildings. Again, ministry shouldn’t stop; it should multiply.
The church was never a building anyway. But somehow church became the place we meet on Sunday mornings, and the real work of ministry got left to the professionals. It’s time to rekindle Ephesians 2:10, which gives church leaders their job description: “to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up”—to share the gospel, serve others, and make disciples right where they live.
Pray for One Another.
Paul told the believers in Colossae, “Devote yourselves to prayer” (Colossians 4:2). Prayer is one of the most important tasks we can undertake. It shape us, making us more effective and fruitful for the kingdom, and it’s an opportunity to intercede for others: “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
Now that many of the activities of the world and the church have grinded to a near-halt, we have an opportunity to fill our lives with prayer, to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). No special technology is needed. Social distancing rules have no effect. Just set aside time to pray—for yourself, your family, your congregation, and the world. Then invite the rest of your church to do the same. These prayers may be the seeds that will grow the next Great Awakening.
Coronavirus tool kit for pastors and church leaders:
- The (Near) Future of Church Giving: 6 Things We Learned from COVID-19
- Coronavirus in Church: 10 Ways to Keep Your Church Healthy and Discipled During the Outbreak
- Online Attendance Down? Here Are 4 Ways to Re-Engage Your Church
- Transitioning to Church Remote Work: The Definitive Guide to Managing Your Church Staff During the Outbreak
- How to Preach on Coronavirus: 7 Overlooked Sermon Writing Prompts from Scripture
- 7 Ways to Avoid Pastoral COVID 19 Burnout: How to Care for Your Soul While Caring for Others
- The CARES Act: 4 Must-Know Provisions for Churches
- Church After COVID: 7 Predictions for How the Church Will Change by 2025
- Returning to Church After COVID 19: Practical Lessons from the Bible
- Live Discussion w/ Pastor Larry Osborne of North Coast Church: 3 Things to Think About Before Opening Your Church’s Doors after COVID 19
- 7 Ways to Avoid Pastoral COVID Burnout: How to Care for Your Soul While Caring for Others
- 11 Online Church Ideas to Use During the COVID 19 Coronavirus Outbreak
- The Best Live-Streaming Video Solutions for Churches
- How to Take Your Church Virtual (Fast): The Ultimate Guide to Church Live-Streaming During Crisis