People were, are, and will always be the reason for the existence of the church on this earth. People are the reason Jesus came to this earth and the reason He created the church, to continue His work on this earth. In the New Testament, we can see that on different occasions He said He had come to love, serve, seek, and save humanity. He left disciples and He left the church to continue to do His work of loving, serving, seeking, and leading people to Him, the Savior.
So how do we continue Jesus’ work and minister to people during the coronavirus pandemic? Here are a few things some of our pastors and churches are effectively doing or planning to do, which you may be able to duplicate in your context, across North America:
1. Pastors and church elders stay in touch with members: go through the list of church members and assign each name and every family to the care of an elder or pastor of the church, with the responsibility to call, stay in touch, find needs, and help with those needs through these difficult days. Church friends, community guests, and family of church members must also be included in the list. The responsibilities of the church must always go beyond the four walls and those who are already saved.
2. Small groups/life groups: forming small groups / life groups and encouraging each member of the church to join one would help to create community and develop disciples during these days of physical separation, social distancing, and in some cases isolation. Group members would check on each other, encourage one another, and worship through tele-conference or video conference regularly. Small groups are also a great way to introduce non-believer friends and family members to our community during these times of fear and uncertainty.
3. Online community activities for teens and children: We cannot forget teens and children are a part of our churches and communities. Organizing electronic play time, FaceTime, Bible study time, and other activities where they can interface in the platforms they frequently use, will bless them and help them to stay sane during these times.
4. Free tutoring sessions for students: As students go back to virtual school, some may need help with their homework. Create a network of tutors who can donate some of their time to help children and teens with their homework.
5. Door drop-off service in the community: as many of the church-sponsored food banks and community services centers have ceased operations in order to comply with regulations, and some people cannot go out to shop, the door drop-off service done by a small group of volunteers, to the elderly, sick, shut-in, low-income, and single parent homes is helpful. Bring the food and necessary supplies to them, drop off at the door with a beautiful encouraging note, avoid physical contact.
6. Especially tailored online program for a senior citizen home: Senior care centers, nursing homes, and other facilities housing high risk populations are mostly on lockdown. Contact a senior citizen home and provide an online program or worship service especially tailored for that community. Allow them to feel the personal touch and the love of your church.
7. Regular conversations online: beyond fiery sermons filled with hope, at times people just need to talk. Our members are used to seeing us on the pulpit with a mic preaching, yet it could be that they need more than a sermon, they may just need a genuine and informal conversation. Do a Facebook Live, talk with your members and community friends, let them ask questions, talk about your day, encourage them, and finish your live conversation with a Bible promise and prayer. Do this regularly, they will experience community, enjoy the moments together, and tune in to talk to you next time.
8. Brief regular worship and prayer times during the day: Sabbath service and prayer meeting are not the only times your church should be in touch with your members and community; 15-30 minutes in the middle of the day can help to strengthen the faith and courage of church members and community friends.
9. Relevant Sabbath worship service online: if your church does not live-stream its services, it is time! If you are not able to worship with your church family during Sabbath worship time, your church family will look for a livestream somewhere else. This is the time to take advantage of the benefits offered by technology and worship online with your church on Sabbath.
10. Relevant prayer meeting online: some of the reports received mentioned that attendance to online prayer meetings is higher than attendance to previous regular prayer meetings at the church. Perhaps something to keep in mind for the future.
11. Protect church against prophetic sensationalism and religious alarmists: Pastors and church leaders, in your weekly teachings, sermons, and conversations, make a point of protecting your church from individuals who will use the pandemic to scare and confuse people. The world will not end as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, neither is this a sign of the end. We’ve had much bigger pandemics before where millions have died. Jesus was very clear in his Matthew 24 sermon, when he said: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
12. Family time: Take time for your family, worship together, play together, take walks together, watch some nice family programs together, and make sure that you are there for each other. Parents, help your children to ease their fears with affirmation, hugs, and much love, provide structure for their daily activities, physical exercise, school work, and entertainment, and make them feel useful during these days at home. Encourage this in your weekly teachings, sermons, and conversations with your church members.
13. Prayer and claiming of God’s promises: As we do all of the above, let’s never forget that our most important source of power and healing is God. Let’s continue to pray and claim His promises over our families, our churches, our communities, our cities, our countries, and our world.
Pastor Jose Cortes Jr. is an Associate Director of the Ministerial Association and leads Evangelism, Church Planting, and Adventist/Global Mission for the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. This article originally appeared on the NAD Ministerial website and is reprinted here with permission.
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