By Elijah Simmons
In these challenging times it is easy to lament the things we cannot do: gather together in person, participate in on-campus small groups, or lay hands on a member to pray for them. We just experienced an Easter Sunday unlike any in the history of the church, a virtual one.
Many of us are expending a great deal of energy looking for ways to keep our members connected and engaged. If there was ever a time for the church to begin looking “inward,” this would be it. There are numerous ways, however, for the church to stay on mission and continue to look “outward” during this season of ministry:
As pastors we are commissioned with preaching the word of God in season and out of season. Our members need to hear the Word of God preached, but so do our unsaved neighbors. The church is the only institution that can fill this need. Let the people in your community know that they can participate in the services virtually and hear the Word. Invites to participate in the worship services of your church have never been easier to make!
If your church has an existing school partnership, I encourage you to reach out the principal to see if there are any needs the church can fill during this time. All of our schools have been thrust into virtual learning, which has been quite an adjustment. There may be ways to be of help even during a virtual learning scenario. Chances are, the parents aren’t the only ones overwhelmed learning to homeschool. Imagine what the teachers are feeling being unable to gather with their students. Their feelings probably echo ours as pastors who can’t gather with our flocks. Now would be an incredible time to let teachers know they haven’t been forgotten. Your local principal may have some great ideas for ways to bless our teachers, parents, or students during this time.
- Direct Communication with Neighbors
While we cannot have up close, in-person contact with our community right now, we may still be able to communicate with them directly. For example, we still have contact information for recent visitors to our church services (pre-pandemic). I am calling previous visitors personally and praying with them. The reaction to having the local pastor call to check on them, even though they are not members of our church, is indescribable. It’s easy and impactful ministry. I anticipate it will also bear fruit in the future.
We should use this time to pray for members and community. We can allow people to submit prayer request virtually or call the church and receive prayer directly. We can also use a service like BlessEveryHome.com to help coordinate your churches efforts to pray for every home in your community. What a great use of our time during this season!
While our circumstances have changed drastically over the past two months, our mission remains the same. Let’s get creative and challenge ourselves and our members to keep an outward focus as we seek to live out the Great Commission. Pastors, stay connected within your association as much as possible. Now is a great time to learn from one another and share ideas and encouragement as we press into a future none of us anticipated.
I am praying for you!
Elijah Simmons is the Senior Pastor of Norwood Community Church in Jacksonville, Florida and the Moderator of the Jacksonville Baptist Association.