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This is an unprecedented time in the U.S. as churches everywhere are scrambling to figure out how to respond and what to do about the growing concern for the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic hitting our country and the world.
The CDC and the President are urging us to keep gatherings to no more than 10 people. Local governments in multiple states are banning large gatherings all together, forcing churches to close their doors on Sunday and cancel all events. Not even small group gatherings in homes are encouraged. Leaving many to quickly figure out how best to livestream (some for the first time!), and how to effectively communicate about the changes.
Additionally, aside from figuring out preaching and worship logistics, churches are also burdened with continuing to meet the needs of our communities, who are panicked and scared.
While there’s so much I could say about being prepared, that’s not going to be helpful now. My hope, though, is that churches will learn from this experience and that we’ll come out of this with better policies and procedures in place, so that we are all in a better position to continue the mission more effectively.
Be the Church – Meet the Needs
You may be forced to cancel Sunday services and events. You may even be quarantined and limited in other ways.
But we are still the church. The mission is the same, even though the circumstances have changed.
Just because your church is closed doesn’t mean we should stop hearing from you. My feeds are full of panicked people and political pundits.
Where are the pastors and churches?
As your church is closed and you’re focused solely on your online options for probably the first time ever, think through how your church can still be the church. If your building was no longer an option, how would you still serve? How would you care for people and meet their needs? How will you continue to preach? How will you create disciples?
Learn through this period. Let this be a trial run. Not only so you are better prepared for next time, but so you can apply what you learn through this period throughout the year. My hope is this will awaken a lot of churches to not always be so dependent on your building and large gatherings. That’s a way to reach people, not THE way.
People are online right now more than ever. They’re scared. They’ve got real needs. Let’s step up.
Some easy low hanging needs I’m seeing that the church can help with:
- Toilet Paper. Can’t find any. Everyone is sold out. When they restock, it’s gone in minutes. Can’t even buy it online right now. This will likely level out over the few days as supply meets demand, but in the meantime this creates a real problem for some people. Your church can be the connection between people who have toilet paper and the people who need toilet paper.
- Medical Supplies. Think about the diabetics in your church and community, as well as others who depend on live-giving medicine. Find ways to connect people who can help each other replenish supplies. Help people financially who need it, particularly those who cannot work right now because their business is closed or sales have slowed down.
- Money. I know churches are worried about a dip in giving, and that’s likely going to come. But if you’re able to help people financially, or connect people with money to people who need money, then don’t be afraid to do just that. Some people are going to be in serious need of financial help over the next few weeks.
- Prayer. People are scared. They are reading stories of people in Italy who are not allowed to leave their homes and they are wondering if that will happen here. They are worried about losing their jobs or income. Every industry is going to be affected. People need hope. They need the gospel. They need people to be listening to them and praying with them.
Listen to what people are saying – they’re usually telling you how to minister to them.
- 4 Ideas to be FOR Your Community During COVID-19
- The New Church
- Church Will *Hopefully* Never Be the Same
Our friends at Pro Media Fire have also launched a campaign called the Great News Campaign. Churches must not lose focus on sharing peace, love, joy, and hope, especially during this crisis. Visit GreatNews.World for free media resources.
Cheap & Easy Live-Streaming
If your church is cancelling weekend services, and you don’t have live streaming in place already, don’t fret. Live streaming for the first time can be free and easy.
It’s ok to not have a professional setup. Treat this as a temporary solution, and if you decide to start streaming regularly then you can improve upon the experience as you go. Right now your goal is just to maintain a connection with your audience and continue to be able to preach the Word during a trying time.
The church I attend in Georgia is a small 250-person church that currently does not live stream every week. Last year we were hit with a freak snow storm that caused us to cancel all services last minute.
So our lead pastor went live on Facebook from his home. He setup an iPhone, sat at his desk, and preached his sermon live to the church Facebook page. An email went out as well as social media posts promoting it. It was intimate, fun, and did the trick!
Our worship pastor even went live on Facebook from his home. He setup an iPhone, grabbed his guitar and performed a few songs.
It cost nothing, used the equipment they had in their pockets, and kept our church connected.
You can stream to Facebook, YouTube, even Twitter pretty easily with only a phone and no additional software, just the features already built into those services. You don’t need to make it fancy or complicated. Communicate it well on all of your channels and make it fun.
Right now the world needs to see you, even if you’re on your coach or at your home office. They don’t need to see the lights and production, so don’t overdo it.
Don’t worry about how many people watch it live either. Keep the recording up on your Facebook page and people can watch it when they are able to. You can even download it and embed the video on your website or upload to your other channels.
- Blackbar has a great video walkthrough on Fast and Cheap Ways to Livestream Your Church Service.
- How To Launch Your Church Online Quickly from Steve Fogg
- Why You Shouldn’t Live Stream a “Normal” Service This Weekend by Michael Tuszynski
With services being cancelled and people scared about the future, churches are surely going to see a dip in giving. It’s in everyone’s best interest to give them options and make it as easy as possible to continue to give, should they have the means.
If you don’t already have digital or online giving in place, it’s super easy to setup – even if its just temporary to get you through the next few weeks.
It is important to communicate about your churches needs, and what is needed to serve your community. Over communicate WHY and HOW your people can give during this time. Otherwise, it’s going to be the last thing they are thinking about right now.
Setting up a service like Tithe.ly is free and takes just a few minutes.
You hook it up to your church bank account and you’ll immediately get a link that you can distribute on your website, through email, through social media, etc. Then people can click and give easily and securely.
Literally within 5 minutes you’ll be up and running with a legit way to receive funds online. People can pay with credit, debit, check, or ACH. And you can even enable it so that they cover the small transaction fee if you want to. There’s no other monthly or setup costs. I don’t know of any other online giving service that you can setup that quickly.
Whether you use Tithe.ly, PushPay, RebelGive, Online Giving, or someone else, there’s no reason why your church has to suffer a dip in donations just because you didn’t have online giving in place already.
- From the Tithely Blog: Coronavirus in Church: 10 Ways to Keep Your Church Healthy and Discipled During the Outbreak
Easter Services [Updated]
It might be a little stressful to think about now, but Easter is still right around the corner. And it’s still the biggest and best opportunity for your church to share the gospel with as many people as possible.
Given the mandates from the CDC, the President, and most local governments to limit large gatherings for at least 8 weeks, now is the time to tear up your Easter plans and work on a Plan B.
Think through how Easter will look for your church if it is online only. Think about how best to communicate the gospel through this time. Is it making sure everyone can hear and watch your sermon? That’s probably part of it. But think about ways you can continue to meet the needs in the community during this time too.
How can you incorporate small in-home gatherings into your Easter plans, so that people can easily invite their neighbors over to watch your message or any other resources you provide?
Can you do a “drive-in” Easter where people stay in their cars? How about meeting in the parking lot or a public park, and finding creative and fun ways for people to keep their distance from each other?
We’ve put together a Coronavirus and the Church Resource and Info Center to help you and your church navigate this crisis. We will keep it updated as new info and resources are added.
Lastly, stay tuned to our Facebook Group, Sunday to Sunday, for more advice, resources, and to connect with other churches going through what you are going through.
If you have resources available, or know of any, post a link in the comments below.
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