No question we live during a unique moment in time. If we dig past the bad news, the good news is that it seems more people are coming to Christ than before this crisis began. People are open to hearing a daily word from their pastor, or sometimes any pastor. As fears and loneliness run high, a significant percentage of people are desiring to find peace in the middle of this chaos. How might leaders in the local church connect emotionally and technologically to their members on a weekly basis while also supporting local communities?
Call Your Members
I know of a pastor who called 70 people in one day. (His church was about 150 people). He offered encouragement and prayer. In three days, he reached everyone! Some of your members can also call and support others using this same tactic. These calls are ideal tasks for staff that may not be able to fully do their jobs remotely. Many of you in smaller churches may be already using this as a huge lifeline for those who are feeling the impact of social isolation and distancing. Keep it up! Your members need it now more than ever before.
Connect Daily with Your Members Online
Take Advantage of Online Meeting Software
Online meeting platforms are a great tool to use for one-on-one counseling and pastoral care. Even if you can’t see them face-to-face, this is the next best thing. A quick word of encouragement and a smiling face from a pastor who cares can go a long way for a family who is grieving, missing other members, or feeling anxious.
Go Live on Social Media
Facebook and YouTube offer you the opportunity to go live with sermons, devotionals, or just a word of encouragement for your community. Even very small churches can use this at no cost, and there is a great wealth of material online to help you get started, including material from other pastors who are already doing this daily. A church I know in Mexico communicates to its people through Facebook. It means so much to your people to hear your voice and see your face, even if it’s over the screen.
Link Everything to Your Church Website
Prepare online daily devotionals. Facebook and Instagram Stories are great applications to deliver short, encouraging videos. We’ve found that this has been as important to people as the Sunday service. One pastor I know does a 2-3-minute devotional to encourage his congregation every morning. His congregations love it! This doesn’t need to be long, as much as it needs to be daily. Emails and text messages can work too.
Don’t Shy Away from Speaking of Generosity
If you haven’t developed a website where people can give to your church. Do that ASAP. A significant number of churches have noticed that most of the giving is done online. Giving can increase as we develop strategies to give online. For instance, make sure your giving process is quick, easy, and understandable for all. For those who still write checks, make sure you list the best address for mailing checks. Mailing checks may be slowly disappearing, but many congregants still prefer this as the primary way they financially support their church.
Be Strategic with Your Church Budget
Small churches and their bi-vocational pastors are feeling the strain of this crisis. As a church leader, you know families in your care are not immune to the economic impact of this virus. We must continue to be wise stewards of the gifts our churches give. Below are some practical tips for making sure you and your church make it through with resources to spare.
- Purchase orders, contracts, janitorial services, etc. can be put on pause. For instance, you don’t need additional office furniture or office supplies when the offices aren’t being used. Instead, spend any necessary money on having a strong online presence with easy access to devotionals, messages, on-line giving, and church resources.
- Revaluate your staffing needs in light of a limited budget and decreased giving. You might be able to eliminate a position or freeze open positions.
- The Government Relief Program called the CARES ACT of 2020 is worth looking into. It helps you retain staff. Churches are included in the various government programs for people who need to be temporarily laid off. Quickly do the research and inform any personnel of the ability to collect unemployment funds if needed.
- If your church doesn’t have any video equipment at all and has a small budget, consider recording with your smartphone. Most new phones have advanced video recording capabilities but may lack the sound quality needed to produce a great-sounding video. Purchasing a small microphone that connects to your headphone jack may be sufficient for the time being. There are also many camera packages that may fit into your price range. These come with everything you need to record quality video clips for your church.
- Try filming your Sunday sermons beforehand. Then, on Sunday morning, post your video as a premier on YouTube and Facebook. This gives the opportunity for listeners to have a live chat and to interact with the prayer team or other staff and congregants during the sermon. I know of many churches who are streaming these pre-recorded “LIVE” services at their regular service times. From that time on, the messages are available to be viewed on their websites.
The Church is not a building. The church is people. Encourage them and be available for them. Find the fearful, the bored, the helpless, the poor, the lonely, and the elderly. They want to hear from you! Think outside the box when it comes to encouraging and connecting with your church family. This is a trying time for churches everywhere but will get through this. By the grace of God, when we come back together, our churches will be full of new families hungry to hear the Gospel more than ever before.