By Aaron Earls
As churches face potentially significant time without in-person gathering, many are thinking through unusual and creative ways to encourage each other and their community.
Here are some ideas that may be useful for your congregation.
1. Stream services online
While 41% of Protestant churches have not regularly made this part of their practice, now may be the time to start.
Pastors can use low-cost and even free means like Facebook Live to broadcast weekly sermons to a dispersed congregation.
2. Gather safely in smaller groups
Currently, the federal government is recommending not gathering with groups of 10 or more. Perhaps some of your healthy members can gather in smaller numbers, while taking all the needed social distancing precautions.
3. Develop virtual groups
For many congregations, it may not be wise to gather physically with any sized group. In those situations, churches should seek to “gather” online through social media or other platforms.
Facebook has invested heavily in their groups channel and churches may be able to benefit from it.
4. Offer family discipleship plans
Encourage parents to use this opportunity to take the lead in the spiritual discipleship of their children.
On Sundays, LifeWay Kids is offering free resources for parents and caregivers to help walk children through a small group lesson.
Churches could also send parents a daily email with a Bible reading, devotional thought, prayer, and activity.
This not only helps kids grow spiritually, but also offers frazzled parents some additional ideas to occupy homebound kids and facilitates family discipleship.
5. Post how-to videos
Do you have people in your congregation who are skilled bakers, talented musicians, or great artists? Have them create how-to videos and post them on YouTube.
Kids and others stuck at home can watch and learn from your church members. This will provide great quarantine content for families, but can also provide your church member with a gospel platform in the future.
6. Partner elderly members with younger members
Older members and others who have weakened immune systems may rightly be worried about making a run to the grocery store or pharmacy for needed supplies.
Gather a list of all those in your congregation in this situation and assign younger and healthier members to contact those individuals and provide whatever they may need.
It may be store runs or just someone to listen and provide companionship.
7. Host distance prayer meetings
Just because your church can’t gather to pray doesn’t mean they can’t share requests and pray for one another.
Share an email with churchwide prayer requests and set a certain time each week to pray as a church family.
If you have the capabilities, have members join a prayer conference phone call or video chat. It may be good to hear voices or see faces.
8. Provide drive-in or drive-thru church services
Some churches are providing communion drive-through for members, and one church in Washington state offer a drive-in church.
People could remain in their cars and listen on the radio while church leaders offered worship songs and a sermon from the church building’s rooftop.
9. Organize service days
What are some projects people in your church can do in small groups that would speak volumes to your community?
Many parks and playgrounds are closed. Maybe a family can offer to pick up trash and clean the equipment.
Could you have people volunteer with organizations like Meals on Wheels or those seeking to feed hungry children out of school?
10. Create online book clubs
Now is an opportunity to dust off those books that have been sitting on your shelf and finally read them. Or better yet, find a book for your congregation to read together or for small groups to read together.
Use collaborative tools like Facebook Groups, Zoom, or Google Hangouts to videoconference and discuss the book in sections.
LifeWay currently has a special offer to aid church leaders in keeping their congregation on the same page: Select titles are offered at $5 per book, and each book has a free online discussion guide.
Churches should use safe social distancing measures when distributing books once they are shipped to the church property.
11. Host stranded college students
Many colleges all over the country have suspended on-campus classes indefinitely; some for the remainder of the semester.
This means there are some students—particularly international students—who might not be able to travel home to finish their semester online.
If your church is near one of these colleges, consider contacting the administrative office of the school to see if there are ways to help with displaced students.
12. Invite neighbors to online church services
Keeping in mind the government’s recommendation to meet in groups of 10 or smaller, encourage your church members to invite their neighbors over for online church services and breakfast, brunch, or lunch.
This is a great way for people to be salt and light in their communities while also building friendships with their neighbors.
13. Partner with other churches
You may not be able to gather as a church family, but you may be able to partner with other local churches to reach people.
Some churches with experience in livestreaming and posting sermons online are helping churches who don’t feel comfortable attempting that at their church.
What other ways can the churches in your community can work together to display unity and show the love of Christ to watching world?
Do you have any other creative ideas for churches during the coronavirus quarantines?
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor for Facts & Trends.