By Dennis Garcia
When asked about the effects of the 9/11 tragedy on his church, one pastor said, “Attendance went up and giving went down.”
Whenever a crisis strikes a local community, let alone a global pandemic, there’s usually an increase of needs and a decrease in resources. This is the future we face as local churches.
The needs of individuals within our congregations and communities will rise exponentially while at the same time, our resources will drop dramatically. How do we effectively minister in this type of environment?
Here are some low-cost, meaningful ways to serve your congregation and community.
1. People are your best resource.
As church leaders, it’s impossible to minister to every individual in our congregation and community adequately. That was never our job.
Rather, according to Paul, we’re to equip and mobilize God’s people to minister to each other and their neighbors.
Giving may be down, but I’m seeing more and more believers ready to serve through whatever means they can. Don’t hesitate to call on your people to use their gifts, talents, and abilities to serve.
2. Prayer is your greatest tool.
One concern in our current state of crisis is the risk of exposure for those who are trying to help. This is a legitimate concern we must consider.
One of the best ways to serve your congregation and community during this time is through prayer. Develop a prayer strategy where every member of the church is prayed for regularly, by name.
Likewise, mobilize your congregation to pray for their neighbors, coworkers, and friends. A great tool that I use to pray for my community is Pray4EveryHome.org.
This organization uses postal service data and sends a daily email with names and addresses of people in my neighborhood as well as prayer prompts.
Encourage your congregation to sign up for this service. How powerful could it be if your church prayed over every family in your community by name during the COVID-19 crisis?
3. Leverage existing ministries within your church.
Most churches have active ministries that could quickly pivot their focus or energy to serve during this unique time.
Perhaps your children’s workers offer free Zoom tutoring sessions for kids who are out of school or partner with the school district to deliver meals to children who can’t get to a feeding location.
Maybe your student ministry could host online hangouts or gaming tournaments to engage bored teens.
You could mobilize your hospitality ministry to write letters or make calls to people who are isolated in assisted living communities.
Right now, many of your primary ministry volunteers aren’t serving in their typical capacity. How can you leverage their passion and gifts to continue their ministry in this season?
4. Focus on community.
One of the greatest needs for the majority of the country is community. Before COVID-19 restrictions, most people interacted with others regularly at school, work, church, stores, restaurants, parks, and all the other places we did life.
Now, the majority of these places are closed and we’re isolated in our homes. Going back to Genesis, we know that humanity was created for connection. We thrive in community. (Yes, even introverts!)
You can serve both your congregation and community by setting up opportunities for connection using available technologies. This could be a Zoom small group meeting or a Facebook Live talent show.
Over the past week, I’ve seen virtual coffee sessions and online movie watch parties. These are simple to set-up and can provide much needed human interaction during a time of intense isolation.
5. Encourage generosity, not greed.
We’ve all seen the pictures and videos of people hoarding essential supplies. Many stores sell out of toilet paper and cleaning supplies as fast as they put them on the shelves. Many even have limits on quantities.
I was recently reminded of the description of the local church in Acts 2 when Luke writes that they gave to everyone as they had need.
As believers, we’re blessed, not for our comfort, but to be a blessing to others. A simple way to serve is to share what we have.
Last week, someone shared a few dozen eggs with our family. Today, I dropped off a container of disinfectant wipes at a friend’s house.
This doesn’t mean we give away everything, but that we share out of what we have, however great or small it may seem.
Jesus said the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves. In these difficult days, we have the opportunity to be a tangible expression of God’s love to our neighbors.
It doesn’t take an abundance of resources to make a significant difference, usually just an eye open to see a need and a willingness to step up and serve.
DENNIS GARCIA (@dennislgarcia) is the husband of Toni, father of Miranda and Kephas, and church planting catalyst serving in Southern New Mexico for the North American Mission Board.