Today, many pastors are praying about how to lead their churches through this COVID-19 season of confusion, panic, and even public hysteria. This pandemic response is complicated on various different layers including medical, economic, and social situations that the entire world is seeking to navigate.
As the new language of social distancing is being employed by health officials—President Trump has announced a request for all mass gatherings to basically be eliminated. The new circle has been reduced to the size of a large family unit—only 10 people. Much of the media attention has been centered upon the gatherings of bars, restaurants, and schools—this season presents a great challenge to local churches as well. So, now the leaders of local churches are seeking to lead their congregations in such a way that allows for ministry connections without physical overlap and contact in order to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Stop Playing the Shame Game
First, I would encourage people to simply stop playing the shame game online. If you honestly believe that churches not gathering during this virus pandemic is a violation of Hebrews 10:25, please keep that to yourself and stop seeking to shame people by a misuse of the biblical text. It’s essential for Christians to comply with federal and state requirements on mass gatherings—as well as other state and federal laws. That’s our calling according to Romans 13. Furthermore, this is not a situation where Christians are being told to not worship God and that they must turn their back on the gospel in order to bow to Caesar. This is a unique season that requires us to use common sense, wisdom, and submission to our authorities—the very authorities that God has implemented for our good.
Communication, Communication, Communication…
One of the keys to effective leadership is communication. One of the ways to ensure that a church is functioning properly and efficiently is through clear communication. Unfortunately, during a season of disconnect, it’s difficult to get the word out to everyone. It’s likely that the very best attempt to send out church-wide e-mails about the modified ministry schedules misses a specific age demographic who doesn’t use online communication such as social media and e-mail. This is where communication matters greatly. The church must do everything possible to talk, listen, and help serve the entire body—even if that means by taking time to pick up the phone and call people to be sure everyone is on the same page.
One of the ways that we are addressing the ministry adjustments is by sending out a physical letter to the entire church family so that everyone receives a copy and can understand how we are going to function for the next few weeks. They say that in the real estate world everything revolves around location, location, location. In ministry, it’s often communication, communication, and communication. During this season of disconnect, it would be wise to encourage deacons to make phone calls to families in the church to check on the members and especially the elderly. Furthermore, it would be wise for pastors to do the same—while maintaining a study routine that may be altered due to online service preparation.
Technology is a Common Grace of our God
Just as God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45), he has allowed the advancement of information technology which can be harnessed by the Church for God’s glory. This means that tools are available that can greatly help the local church to remain connected in a season of disconnect. Some of those tools include the following:
- Zoom: This service will allow Sunday school classes and small groups to meet together, even if it’s through the mode of screen based technology that employs the use of web cams and keyboards. There is a way for non-tech people to call into the meeting and listen as well.
- YouTube: This is an easy tool for churches to stream their services live and the feed can be placed on the church’s website and social media channels in order for more exposure. You can also use YouTube to location really good songs to use during family worship on a regular basis or to bridge the gap during this social distancing season.
- Online Hymnal: You can make use of the .pdf version of the Hymns of Grace which can be used for families and small groups (of 10 or less) to sing together during a season of fear and darkness—which is a vital part of Christian worship.
- Text Group / Conversations: You can use your smart phone technology to setup a text conversation among your small group or Sunday school class that will enable everyone to communicate and encourage one another during this complicated ministry season. There is also another technology called Group Me that can help here too.
- Online Giving: Churches can harness the power of online giving platforms to help fund the ongoing budget and ministry needs of the church during this season. Today’s solutions are user friendly and super simple to setup. We use one through our G3 app which is fueled by Subsplash online giving. We use another service through our local church called Simplify Give, and within a couple of days a church can have it setup and functional.
- Physical Letter: This is an old technology, but there is great power in the pen that is often missed in a casual e-mail. Take time to write to people within the church! Teach your younger children the importance of mailing letters to encourage the elderly and your leaders during this time.
The church is God’s plan for his people. We are called the body of Christ and the body has a functionality that is greatly disrupted by disconnect. It’s extremely important for leaders to listen, pray, and use the necessary technological tools that will enable the local church to remain connected, serving, worshipping, and caring for one another during an indefinite time period of disconnect.
The church needs one another. We need to encourage one another (Heb. 10:24-25) and we must serve one another (1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11). When we are being told to keep distance between ourselves and to disconnect from gatherings in order to prevent the spread of this virus—we must labor all the more to overcome such challenges in order to encourage one another, build-up one another, and worship our God together (even when we are not in the same room)—remembering that we are one body made up of many members (Rom. 12:4).
May the watching world see the Church of Jesus thrive during a season of unrest and public panic. May we demonstrate resolve rather than fear. May we trust in our sovereign God who created us and sustains us—along with the entire universe. There is nothing too big—or too small for that matter—that God cannot control. There is nothing, including the COVID-19 virus that escapes his eyes and nothing too powerful to overcome his governing providence. It may remain a mystery for us, but we can trust that God is working this whole thing out for his glory.
May the Lord teach us a valuable lesson regarding the necessity of the local church and the importance of assembly during a time where we are being forced to disassemble.