As Coronavirus shuttered most in-person gatherings indefinitely, church leaders mobilized quickly to keep their congregations on track and on mission to meet needs in their community. But how does ministry happen when even medium-sized gatherings are discouraged? Across Illinois, IBSA church leaders are communicating with their congregations about ways to respond to immediate needs.
Many churches are also working to keep community strong, even as groups aren’t meeting together physically. Leaders are sharing ideas for personal discipleship and spiritual growth, even when churches and small groups can’t meet in-person.
Some churchgoers are using cancelations as an opportunity to hopscotch services across the country via streaming. Carole Doom, a member of the IBSA staff, posted March 15 that she virtually attended a service at her own church in Illinois, plus services streamed from Ohio and Florida.
Others on Facebook chimed in about going to their own church online and attending church in another time zone. When one person lamented online that her church wouldn’t be holding an in-person or live streamed service, several others sent links inviting her to their church’s online services that Sunday.
Red Hill Church in Edwardsville created a Google form to assess virus-related needs and resources. The form, linked on the church’s Facebook page, asks if people have specific needs, including housing, household items, or meals, and also if people are willing to provide goods and services or housing. There’s also space to submit prayer requests and the names of people with needs the church can meet.
Dorrisville Baptist Church in Harrisburg posted links to a community feeding program that will provide breakfast and lunch for kids in southern Illinois who usually receive those meals at school. Churchgoers were invited to sign up as meal deliverers.
Vale Church in Bloomington has created a way for care requests to be submitted online, said adult ministries pastor Nolan Recker. The requests haven’t started coming in yet, but the team is ready, Recker said. “We have tripled our Care Team Network over the weekend and they are eager and waiting for opportunities to meet whatever needs arise.”
More ideas from Scott Foshie IBSA’s Revitalization Director:
>Facebook your meetings. Pastors and small group leaders can provide Bible studies online through Facebook Live or other media options. Hold meetings at a pre-announced, regular time so that as many as possible can join you. Communicate that Bible studies will be available after the fact on the social media platform.
>Use online giving options. Encourage people to continue to give to the church without having to be there physically. Many banks offer online payment. Givers can designate the church as a payee and have their offering submitted at a specified time.
>Start a text message collective. Remind.com offers a free service for leaders to stay in touch with members via text messages. Visit the site to learn more.
>Develop homebound call lists. Church members can receive phone calls on a regular basis. Any needs they have can be shared and met through home delivery in accordance with health department guidelines.
Collect food items. For children who are out of school and in need, as well as for the homebound, designate a drop-off point outside the building or in an entryway. Many people will need help getting deliveries, if store shelves are empty and restaurants are mostly closed.
>Move prayer meeting online. Balance Bible study with time to pray as well. Social media video platforms have the option for people to provide prayer requests.
>Discuss their fears. Metro Community Church in Edwardsville posted a guide for parents to use with their children as they talk about Coronavirus fears.
>Offer online Bible study guides for families. Ask children’s ministry leaders and student leaders to provide content for families in their care. LifeWay has developed a free resource to supplement Sunday school.
>Encourage personal responsibility for leading Bible study. Utilize new services such as Right Now Media. Help your church family access Bible studies from home for all ages, anytime. Churches can link to these studies and also send out discussion guides to help families talk about what they’ve studied.
For more ideas visit IBSA.org/Church-helps.