The COVID-19 pandemic has led to the loss of life and the total disruption of cities, countries, and the world. In the midst of the chaos, churches are learning to pivot, adjust, and innovate quickly. The number of resources that have surfaced for churches in the last few days has been amazing, including some great tools from CMN Lead and the Assemblies of God. While the strategies to respond to this pandemic are numerous, here are 20 ideas your church might consider.
1. Church Online: Church services are being offered online at a rapid rate. In fact, the Church Online Platform from Life.Church has seen thousands of new subscribers during this crisis. This is a great way to provide predictable and meaningful ministry each week. Plus, many larger churches are offering their recording capabilities to smaller churches at no charge.
2. Online Community Groups: While online services are great, you need a small group strategy that will help people feel noticed, connected, and cared for during this season. At 7 City Church, we moved all of our Community Groups online using the web-based platform, Zoom. This is an extremely cost-effective and easy-to-use platform that will keep groups engaged. We’ve also added a couple of new groups that deal with topics relevant to this season.
3. Kids Church Online: Kids are feeling disconnected and isolated, and it’s important that we provide a way to stay connected. Consider filming a kid’s church service (even if it’s from your kid’s pastor’s living room), and make it available on YouTube.
4. Kids Story Time: Another way to stay connected with your kids is to record a bedtime story a couple of times per week. Our kids pastor at 7 City Church has started recording, “Story Time with Ashley” twice per week, and then she uploads it to YouTube. It’s a 5-minute kids Bible story that parents and kids can watch together before bedtime.
5. Facebook Live: Facebook live is being utilized by many churches for online devotionals, prayer time, and worship. It’s a great way to stay connected with your congregation, and it allows for more personal interaction.
There are many ways to approach ministry during this season. These twenty strategies are a starting place, but keep your eyes open for other innovative strategies being employed by churches.
6. Weekend Text Blitz: Approximately 30-60 minutes before your first weekend online service, have your staff (or a team of volunteers), send a text message or private message to every person in the church, encouraging them to join you for the service online. At the very least, send this to all of your volunteers, group members, and donors. This will increase engagement in your online services.
7. Relief Fund: Set up a COVID-19 relief fund to meet the needs of families in your church and community. This will be especially important as the pandemic creates job loss or a reduction in hours.
8. Regular Staff Connection: Communication with your staff and volunteers is essential during this time. Establish a regular time to connect online via Zoom. If you do regular one-on-one meetings with your staff, keep those going online as well. This will be essential if you’re going to maintain a sense of stability, connectedness, and clear communication with your team.
9. City and School Partnerships: Send an email to a city councilmember and school official offering to help. Becoming aware of the needs in your community is essential, and is a great way to be the church in this time. If city or school leaders reach out to you, be sure to respond quickly.
10. Delivery Services: Many churches are starting to deliver groceries and other supplies to people in need. Offer this service to members of your church—particularly the elderly. In addition, many schools are needing help delivering meals to families in need.
11. Volunteer Engagement: Create and distribute an online form to help you recruit volunteers from your church that would be willing to assist with needs in your city and schools.
12. Crisis Leadership: Start an online small group for business and community leaders on how to lead in a crisis. This crisis is unprecedented, and it is new territory for many leaders. One possible resource would be a business book study on Bill George’s book, 7 Lessons for Leading in Crisis.
13. Breakout Rooms: The web-based platform, Zoom has a great feature called, “Breakout Rooms.” When everyone logs onto Zoom for a meeting, the “Breakout Rooms” feature allows you to organize everyone into separate breakout rooms facilitated by different leaders. This would be a great resource for youth pastors. For example, a youth pastor could invite students to an online gathering where they provide encouragement and a brief message. Then, at the click of a button, the youth pastor could move every student into a small online breakout room with their small group leader. This would allow students to stay connected with a leader and receive attention and prayer on a more personal level.
14. Online Giving: Be sure to provide online giving opportunities regularly. This should be a visible link on the front page of your website, and it should be clear in any regular digital communication tool (such as a newsletter).
15. First Quarter Donor Letter: Be sure to send out a first quarter donor letter (in early April). The letter should include any important updates, a summary of the individual’s first quarter giving, and an encouragement to remain faithful with their tithe. Encourage everyone to use your online and text-to-give options.If you have individuals who regularly give by check, consider mailing a few giving envelopes with the letter.
16. Budget Adjustments: Do a quick assessment of your budget to determine if there are weekly or monthly services that need to be adjusted or temporarily suspended. For example, we hire a police officer each week for our services, and we have a coffee service that provides all of our coffee supplies for weekly services. We’ve temporarily suspended both of these to ensure our resources are being allocated toward the highest priority needs.
17. Repurpose Content: If you’ve preached, written, or blogged on topics such as fear, anxiety, or crisis in the past, consider reposting or repurposing that content. Just last month 7 City Church did a teaching series from Philippians 4 called, “Monsters Under My Bed: Putting to Rest Fear, Worry, and Anxiety.” We’ve started reposting that content as a way to encourage people during this time.]
18. Online Sign-Up Page: Create a single landing page where people can sign-up for various ministry opportunities. At 7 City Church, we point people to an easy to navigate site that we use for all of our online sign-ups. While several of these items are on hold (because of this pandemic), we still promote the links to our connect card, prayer requests, giving, and community groups. You can check it out here.
19. Relaunch: The Church Multiplication Network (CMN) has shared a great idea for pastors to consider once this season passes (and it will pass). When it’s time to start services on-site, why not treat it like a relaunch of your church. This could be a momentum building moment that engages new people and rallies the church around a fresh vision. You can learn more here.
20. Strategic Scheduling: With so much ministry moving online, it will be easy for your posts to get lost in the noise. Churches need to develop a clear, consistent, and strategic schedule for posting content and ministry opportunities. For example, at 7 City Church, each week we have services online, as well as online Community Groups. In addition, we’ve created a Monday-Thursday schedule that includes one of the following items each day: live prayer, online devotional, and story time for kids.
There are many ways to approach ministry during this season. These twenty strategies are a starting place, but keep your eyes open for other innovative strategies being employed by churches. While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, we must remain focused on caring for people and ministering in new ways.