Surviving COVID19 and Preparing for the Aftermath
People tend to dislike change, and when change is out of their control, and possibly lethal, they look to their faith leaders to console them and give them hope and reassurance. | By Jackelyn Viera Iloff
One thing I have learned from advising leaders both in and out of ministry is that you have to communicate with your constituencies. Whether you’re in politics, in business, or in church ministry, people who depend on you for services, need to hear from you, especially in times of crisis.
This is more than a momentary crisis. Its effects will be long-lasting. As the global health and economic systems unify in the fight against the coronavirus, this is a call for further innovation in the way we communicate. This is an opportunity to build on the use of existing technology to create a future where we can be even more connected and capable.
If it’s one thing people dislike, it is change. And when change is out of their control, and possibly lethal, they look to their faith leaders to console them and give them hope and reassurance. Our church members need to hear that not all parts of their world have crumbled and that things will get better.
It is important that we keep people apprised about what we are doing, how we are doing it, and when we are doing it.
Most churches in this environment understand that, and it’s been an important part of their ministry to talk to their congregation with a daily message. Aside from giving congregants well-worded, uplifting messages, what else could we do to keep our membership engaged so when we do open the doors again, the congregation will be there in full force?
Here are a few things that you may already be doing to some extent. Now it’s time to enhance and rollout your plans for the present as well as the future.
1. Social Media
Social media is a primary tool to be putting out messages from you as a pastor. But what about engaging the Young Adults, the Youth and Kids ministries and your other ministry leaders to reach out to their groups with activities?
Now is a time to share fun games with kids and talk to them about things that may concern them. Or share homeschooling tips with parents, for example.
For adults, it is a good time to provide points of contact for volunteering to bring food or just a call to shut-ins and to organize Bible study groups online.
Technology is a wonderful tool, so take advantage of all the apps you can find online to share and communicate with your congregation throughout all your ministries.
2. Your Team
Don’t forget to communicate with your team leaders, check on them once a week and give them direction on where you are and what messages you are developing for the weekend. It will go a long way to make your team feel like they are a vital part of your ministry.
No one wants to think they are expendable, especially in a crisis. Make sure you are talking to all your team regularly. This is easily done online. It keeps morale up and people informed. Emails from HR will go a long way to keep employees informed and feeling secure about their jobs and how to answer a myriad of questions for their volunteer teams.
3. Your Congregation
Make sure that you keep your congregation engaged with messages from you about your hope for the future to come. Easter is coming. Let them know you have a special service ready for them online. Jesus’s resurrection is a present hope for all those who are feeling entombed in their homes. Hope is a powerful tool to fight depression.
4. Special Needs
Now more than ever we as ministers need to be aware of the depression this situation can cause. Offer simple counseling services through prayer lines, marriage ministries, and recovery groups. Now is not the time to cut back on these vital services.
Close, daily, non-stop family encounters can lead to tension and even violence. If your ministry can provide help, great. Let your congregation know how they can access these services. If your church can’t provide these, then offer a listing of local nonprofit, private and government services that you can recommend with confidence. Let your congregation know you know what they are dealing with.
5. Digital Living
What we have done inside our churches we now need to look at and provide online. Most importantly, we need to communicate with our congregations through the means they are already using at work and at home. The transition to digital or “virtual living” has been happening slowly for a while now but because of the COVID-19 virus, it’s been fast-tracked. We can now utilize the benefits of cloud services, video conferencing as well as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) to reduce feelings of isolation and to help accomplish the everyday tasks, responsibilities, and activities that we would normally do at the church office or job site.
6. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
If you’re worried about posting too much, don’t. People are hungry for the Word now that they finally have time to get it. The more information you offer up, the better your church congregation will feel about coming back. They will have been served at the point of their need by the church they love. That means so much to worried, anxious and possibly ill members.
7. Be the Pastor
Now more than ever is the time you want to be the pastor to your congregation. Don’t let that role be filled by another person with better outreach and a more accessible message.
Your words of love, comfort, and hope will minister to your flock but only if you meet them online, on social media, on emails, and even texts. And once you have them engaged this way, there is no reason to stop when we are back in what may be a new routine.