I recently read a blog that stated, “The gospel can’t be quarantined.” I’m glad that’s right. People in our communities are facing fear, isolation, economic challenges, and the loss of their normal routine. Many are also dealing with significant health issues that bring spiritual issues to the forefront. People tend to be open to Christ during personal crises; the Coronavirus crisis fits that category.
Our interim pastors are working extra hard at keeping the people in their churches connected to one another during this pandemic; they are also working hard to fulfill the Great Commission in new, social-distanced ways! This is a ripe time for the church to respond to the needs of neighbors in ways that promote the gospel.
Here are some simple ideas for encouraging your church to engage in outreach during this challenging time.
Collect and Distribute Nonperishable Food Items
If your church doesn’t already have a local outreach team, they can seek to recruit one individual who has a heart for ministries of compassion, and encourage that individual to build a small team of 3 to 5 people to serve along with him/her. The leader can work with the team to contact one or more local food shelves or pantries to discover what specific food items are needed, and distribute a list of needed items to congregants. The church’s building can be used as the drop-off site. Then the team can arrange with the food shelves and pantries the best time to deliver donated items.
Interact with Neighbors
Our executive director, Mike Merwin, recently mentioned that walks around his neighborhood have led to numerous conversations with families. With warmer weather, I’ve also noticed that more people are getting out for family walks. This is a wonderful opportunity for church people, while practicing social distancing, to introduce themselves and ask if their neighbors have any particular needs that they might be able to address. Urge church people to exchange contact information and consider hosting a BBQ with some neighbors when social distancing ends.
By now, most people have been introduced to at least one virtual meeting platform. Imagine using the technology they have learned to connect with their church to also contact non-Christian friends that they may not have seen in a while. Time with these friends can be used to not only catch up with family or personal news, but to also offer to pray for any specific needs that are shared. I’ve never met anyone who was offended by an offer for prayer.
Invite Others to Attend Your Church’s Online Service
Many pastors around the country are reporting that more people “attend” their online service than were coming prior to the start of COVID-19. This is a wonderful time for church people to invite those who may not have been open to attending your church in the past to do so now from the privacy of their living room. Suggest that they connect with those they’ve invited to see if they have any questions about their experience.
Start a Group to Explore the Basics of Christianity
Another way to utilize technology is to urge church people to invite unbelievers to explore the meaning of Christianity by reading a book together and discussing it online. I’m sure you’re aware of some books that you can recommend. One that immediately comes to my mind is Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. This is a perfect time for congregants to invite some skeptical friends to explore the meaning of Christianity.
Share Their Story on Facebook and Instagram.
No doubt people in your church are already using social media to share with friends about various topics. Suggest that they also post one or two ways that have helped them to cope with their fears or worries related to this pandemic. Perhaps it’s a Bible verse, a quote from a Christian writer, or a brief summary of their testimony. Then, they can follow up with those who leave a comment.
Practice 3 Habits for Everyday Outreach
Fellow interim pastor Dave Miles and I completed our time of ministry at Christ Community Church in Rochester, Minnesota by challenging people to recognize evangelism as more of a lifestyle than an event or strategy by preaching on Jonah. Here are three simple habits that the congregation was invited to implement each day:
- Will you notice the people who are part of your world?
- Will you pray for them by name that they would come to know God?
- Will you be open to the promptings of God’s Spirit?
We may never have a more opportune time to proclaim the good news of Jesus. Let’s go and do it.
If you’d like to learn more about how VitalChurch Ministry can help your church leaders or your pastors through any crisis, contact us. We’d be happy to talk with you and see how we can help.