There’s truly nothing that compares to face-to-face conversations. We love to see the look on someone’s face and want to hear the inflection in their voice when they talk to us. We want to understand their body language and hug them when we say goodbye. Yes, being present with someone in-person is irreplaceable. However, sometimes circumstances dictate that we can’t be together. Sometimes we are separated by distance or by world events. Sometimes community crisis divides us and requires that we stay far away from those we love. In those times, it is important that we find ways to maintain the community that we have worked so hard to build.
Building church community when we can’t be in the same place is not easy. It takes effort and intentionality. It doesn’t always work and it’s not guaranteed. But as a body of believers, we must do all we can to maintain the fellowship of believers no matter what conditions force us apart.
Here are a few practical suggestions for all of us when we are seeking to keep our sense of community when we have driven apart and cannot spend time together.
Use Your Phone!
We usually bemoan the use of the cell phone in today’s day and age. However, when we are unable to be physically present with people, our phones can become a wonderful tool to breed connections. Text, call, send photos, send videos, post positive, uplifting content on social media. Our phones tend to be in our hands all the time, so let’s put them to good use. Take some time every day to reach out to your family members and friends and spread love and compassion, especially to those who may be feeling lonely and isolated.
The internet can be a glorious thing. Enter any topic or item or question into any search engine and within a few seconds, you’ll have a world of resources at your fingertips to purchase whatever you’re looking for. Think about your family and friends and whether some kind of small and meaningful gift might bless them. If so, order it and have it delivered to them at home. They will be surprised and thrilled to know that you were thinking of them and took the time to choose something you knew they would love. Put that item in your cart and click send!
Utilize your Children’s Creativity.
Children are a great source of joy and exuberance. They have energy and ideas and vitality that seems to never end. Take advantage of these qualities and have them draw some colorful pictures for your friends or write cute notes. Mail them off and wait for the delighted response. These lovely items will bring a wonderful sense of unexpected pleasure to every recipient. Your children will also learn the great lesson that encouraging others is the Lord’s work.
Of course, if you’re not physically present together in the same kitchen, you can’t cook together. However, there’s no reason you couldn’t create an online recipe exchange and supper club in which together the participants choose a recipe and then cook the same meal on the same night. You can have a great discussion afterward about how much your family enjoyed the meal and then share some photos. What a great feeling of camaraderie this would generate.
Start an online Bible Study.
There are a variety of ways you can connect with your friends online to study God’s word together and talk about what you’re learning together. Use any popular video conferencing application to gather everyone together and distribute discussion questions to make the time structured and meaningful. Have a time of prayer together. Encourage everyone to come as they are, with a favorite hot beverage in hand.
Host a watch party.
Many churches are live-streaming their worship services, especially in times when it is not beneficial for church members to meet together. Create a watch party and invite your friends or members of your small group to join you online to watch the live stream together. Enable private commenting features so that each participant can discuss the service and comment on things that are particularly significant to them personally.
Pray for one another.
Be intentional about reaching out to those you don’t see regularly to ask them how you can pray for them. People in isolation have great needs. Reach out to them to let them know you care about them and want to intercede for their needs. Encourage them to pray for you as well and remember to report back on answers to prayer. Everyone will be encouraged and drawn together when they see and hear how God is actively working among His Church.
Take the time and expend the energy required to stay connected in the Christian community during the times in life when we can’t be physically present with others. Watch God’s Kingdom be built as His people care for one another and express His love by using the technology He’s helped us to create. It will deepen our relationships for the future and keep us going when times get especially rough.