The new novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has overwhelmed the world. Everywhere we turn there are loud reports of illness, panic, economic crisis, and empty store shelves. Entertainment and sports events are canceled; colleges and schools are closed; travel is suspended. States are banning large group gatherings, which, in some cases, include church services, prompting many churches to encourage their staff to work remote. Life as we know it will be drastically different, at least for a while.
As church leaders, we look out and we see that our people are worried, uncertain, and wondering what will happen to their children, their family members, their friends, their jobs, their paychecks, their futures, and their world during this pandemic. There is a pervading spirit of fear and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness as we wait for a COVID-19 vaccine and a way to contain its spread.
We as the Church must stand strong, confident that our God is in charge, is sovereign, and will give us the peace we need to make it through.
We can have this peace because we know God’s character and we know that He keeps His promises. We know that He is the Great Healer and that ultimately He is in control of our fallen world. This is a peace that only those who hope in the living God can access.
As we cling to the hope that only God can give, and while it seems the rest of the world uses technology to spread fear and misinformation about this pandemic, we as church leaders can use the technology that we have to spread Christ’s hope to our attendees. Using technology is a way we can reach into every home, whether people are continuing with their normal lives or whether they are quarantined in protection against the coronavirus. Here are a few ways pastors and other church leaders can use the internet, social media, and databases to spread hope and peace to people who are in need of courage in these desperate times even if you have to work remote.
Promote peace and model calm, encourage love.
First and foremost, we must be countercultural in our use of technology by using it to compel our church members to spread love in this time of crisis. Ask them to reach out to their neighbors, help people in need, embrace those of other cultures, and share what they have with those who have less. Model a sense of calm rather than panic. Use words in your communication and online posts that are imbued with peace and tranquility to help bring a longer-term perspective. Help people understand that the virus will eventually be contained and that life will go on. History proves that theory. Be a beacon of hope for the people in this incredible time of need.
Stream church services online.
In this time of uncertainty concerning the containment of the virus and the spread of disease, many people will choose to self-quarantine at home and will stop gathering for church on the weekends, despite our best efforts at making our churches a safe and clean place to gather. Therefore, it becomes all the more important to stream church services live or make them available online as quickly as possible. Helping people stay connected to the life of the church even when they are remote is essential to their emotional and spiritual health. Using the internet to connect those who are absent will be essential during these trying times.
Educate and disseminate accurate information about the coronavirus.
People are searching for up-to-date information on the coronavirus and its spread and are searching for solutions they can implement in their own daily lives. Use social media to educate, give accurate information, specialized health instructions, and encouraging messages. Point people to reliable sources of medical information. There is no need for us as church leaders to dole out specific medical advice, but we can point people to the best and most reliable resources (e.g., Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization, major news outlets, etc.). Help people to sift through the rumors and hype and get to the truth about COVID-19.
Check your church database.
We all have a wealth of information at our fingertips in our church database, even if we have to work remote if your church is using a cloud-based tool. We have the names, attendance records, and demographics of our members and regular attenders. We can use that information to help us meet the individual needs of our people in this time of crisis. Use your church database to have church staff check on the elderly and others who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19. Look through the records to find those you’ve not heard from for a while. Find families with financial needs who have children who will now be out of school and may have extra food needs or babysitting needs. Make sure physical needs are met and the people feel an abundance of care from the Church. Mobilize volunteers to help with this initiative. Rally the Body of Christ to care for one another.
Fear can be perpetuated easily by feelings of isolation. When people try to cope in a vacuum of information, they cling to any bits of information they can find, even if that information is incomplete or inaccurate. Therefore, to help people feel connected and to eliminate feelings of isolation when remote, consider communicating at least every few days for a period of at least 30-45 days. This will create a sense of community and camaraderie that will encourage people and help them feel connected to the church leaders and to the church body as a whole.
Together as the Body of Christ, we can stand against a spirit of fear amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We can stand against a spirit of timidity. We can embrace the spirit of power that God has given us, and we can gather together, whether in person or virtually through the technology that God has given us to create a community that loves one another and brings hope to the world.