5 Great Ways to Keep Your Faith Community Connected through the Coronavirus Crisis
Dr. James Emery WhiteDr. James Emery White's weblog
- 2020 Apr 23
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes
During this time of near global lockdown, it is more important than ever to stay connected. This is particularly true for churches. But how do you stay engaged as a community of faith during a time when you can’t physically meet?
Yes, most churches by now have rushed to get some kind of weekend service or message offered online. And yes, most are trying to ramp up all things social media through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
But is there more?
Here are five additional things to consider that we’re doing at Meck to great effect:
1. Pick Up the Phone
As a staff, one of the first things we did was to divide the contact information of hundreds and hundreds of households that constituted our leadership/volunteer core and personally call them. Each call was simply to find out how they were doing, how we could be praying for them, and whether there were critical needs we should be aware of. In the event they didn’t pick up, we left a voicemail, which was followed up by an email.
The response was phenomenal. Not only were people surprised at the personal touch, you could tell they hungered for it. Many times our staff ended up praying for them while on the phone.
2. Send Notes to the Kids
Everybody likes getting mail, but nobody likes it better than kids. Our MecKidz team of staff and volunteers are writing notes to the kids of our church. They are written in bright colors and sometimes decorated with stickers. Meck’s children’s ministry has more than 1,000 kids attending on any given weekend, so you can imagine how many notes are going out! It may take a while, but we’re trying to reach out to each child to let them know their church loves them. Beyond this, team leaders and small group leaders are filming short “Hello!” videos on their phones that we’re sending out as well.
3. Gather Online Outside of Weekend Service Times
Using apps like Zoom, you can gather together with others online, actually seeing their faces and talking in real-time. At Meck, we’ve been using Zoom for staff meetings, to offer classes through the Meck Institute, to create student ministry events, to offer virtual small groups and more. Recently Meck’s high school ministry decided to have a virtual event called “Campout” where students and leaders put up tents in their own backyards or built forts inside, joined together online and had a campout together. Gathering online is limited only by your creativity.
4. Create Socially Distanced Events
Just because your area might be on lockdown doesn’t mean you can’t get out and do things. Consider creating events that allow people to physically participate while honoring social distancing guidelines.
For example, consider the current “bear hunt” phenomenon in the world. People started spreading the word to friends, family, and neighbors asking them to put teddy bears up in their windows or yards. Then very bored, very shut-in kids get in the car or go for a walk with their very bored, very shut-in parents and go on a “bear hunt.” The goal is to see how many bears they can find. There’s even a song that goes with it complete with hand gestures to make it fun for the younger kids.
At Meck, we decided to host this on our church campus. A Meck family filmed themselves in their home teaching the song, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” We then staged a “bear hunt” on our campus, hiding bears of all sizes throughout a preset driving route. When families drove onto the campus, there was a sign posted that said: “Bears Spotted! Stay in Your Cars!” There were also signs with bear facts, bear riddles, and a place to stop your car and pray for our healthcare workers.
Families then followed the route that took them by lots and lots of bears in various places and settings, including a “real” bear that popped in and out (okay, someone in a bear costume). MecKidz staff were there to wave at the kids, and a bag of gummy bears was given to each child at the end of their route (yes, wearing masks and gloves and through the car window).
This got people from the church “together,” gave families something fun to do, brought them back to church in a warm and safe way, and allowed some face-to-face contact between those families and the MecKidz staff who love them.
5. Serve the Community
Finally, a community of faith is marked by service. And people seem to be craving ways to serve now more than ever. Get creative with this. Food banks across the country are getting slammed with people lining up in cars coming to get food. It takes a lot of volunteers to get that food distributed. In our area, we’ve been serving weekly with the food bank to pack and distribute food to the community. Yes, they take all the necessary safety precautions and practice social distancing, but these volunteers are filling a critical need.
Our children’s ministry and Missions 2.0 partnered together to collect freezer meals that were delivered to an agency in our city that provides temporary transitional housing for the homeless. The meals were distributed to serve the families there as they prepared for our city’s shelter-in-place order.
And in just a couple of weeks, we’ll be holding a hygiene drive to serve another local agency that helps the homeless in our area. It’s hard to shelter in place and follow the CDC’s recommendations to practice good hygiene to keep yourself safe when you don’t have a home. This drive will allow the community at Meck to help stock a mobile shower unit and to distribute hygiene items to the homeless. We’ll be doing this as a drive-thru, drop-off event to keep people protected, and the volunteers collecting the donations will have masks and gloves to keep everyone protected.
All to say, this doesn’t have to be a time where your community of faith drifts apart. It can be a time when the community built on faith draws closer than ever before.
Bryan Alexander, “‘Teddy Bear Hunt’: Stuffed Animal Scavenger Hunts Are Making Life Bearable for Bored Kids,” USA Today, April 10, 2020, read online.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunct professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His newest book, Christianity for People Who Aren’t Christians: Uncommon Answers to Common Questions, is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.