Let’s face it, not being allowed to conduct corporate worship services is a major blow to all churches but particularly to small and medium sized congregations. Large and mega-large churches were already tech savvy and had the staffing and financial resources to quickly implement changes necessary to shift from live to on-line. Smaller churches? That is another matter entirely. My advice to smaller churches is don’t try to compete on production quality with large churches; simply lean into your already existing relational strengths and attempt to expand your reach in doing so.
Here are ten low tech and practical ways that small and medium sized churches can be the church during the current COVID-19 crisis:
- Make phone calls to all members/attendees Let’s be honest, many pastors, secretaries and volunteers have a lot of time on their hands right now since we can’t do the things we have always done. Picking up the phone is doable. If you have 150 attendees and spend 5 minutes on each call, one person can easily get through your list in two or three days. (Three Question Script: How are you? Is there anything specific you need? May I pray for you?)
- Send encouragement cards This is going old school. Identify the people in your congregation who are most “at risk” or isolated and send them a card. Make sure the wording applies, jot a one sentence note and sign your name in your own hand. Address them, stamp them and mail them. Simple.
- All church letter Your congregation is disconnected right now. A congregational letter is in order. You will want to at least answer the following: Are our people being cared for? What are we doing to serve the community? How are finances? What can they do to help?) Sign them all by hand and jot down a personal sentence at the bottom. E-mail or just mail them.
- Pastoral phone call to share a verse (Pastors, pick a single verse that speaks to you and call your folks one at a time. Share the verse and a hopeful thought. Close with prayer. Three minute turn-around. Leave the verse and thought in a message if no one answers.
- Drop off a virtual service pack at people’s homes Put a personal message, a bulletin, two printed songs, and a printed sermon in an envelope and mail it. This is especially good for churches who are unable to broadcast services in any way.
- Ask how you can help This must be the consistent message of all churches right now! Establish value. The question is not “What can you do for the church?” It is how can the church serve you in this challenging time. Use any and all means possible including your church sign, local newspaper and radio. Leave a number. Answer the phone when people call.
- Do an iPhone video hymn sing Our Worship Pastor did this on Easter and it was a huge hit! Simply have someone who can sing (musical accompaniment is a bonus) pick out three songs, record them on an phone and send video as a text or email.
- Offer to run errands/buy groceries for Coronavirus at-risk people Recruit a team, make the offers via phone, come up with a payment system, follow through quickly, leave the supplies or groceries on porch.
- Text a devotion video (Pastors and teachers, record yourself doing a short devotion or lesson on your phone; keep it to five minutes or less and then text or email once a week. Facebook is also great if people have it.
- Text-a-Prayer Offer Each week that people are home, send a text message or make a Facebook post on your church page offering to pray specifically for any needs people share in response. “Praying today. Hope you are holding up well. Anything specific I can lift up on prayer?” Let people know once you have prayed over their request.
Big Idea: Don’t focus on what you can’t do; focus on what you can do! Be creative and interactive. Make sure people are not emotionally isolated. Such simple measures will put your church in position to quickly “reboot” once we are holding worship services again and to strengthen your church in the process.
No down side.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois