We are living in an unprecedented time. A time none of us predicted or expected. Everything we know about gathering as a congregation has shifted to some degree due to this “Covid-19” pandemic. A lot of things feel up in the air and it can be very discouraging at times. Many of us are asking questions like, “How do we navigate this season?”, “Will the coronavirus ever fully be gone?”, “When is it really safe enough to reopen the church fully?”, and many more. Luckily, I believe I have some suggestions to help get you through this last stretch of the pandemic, and a few suggestions to help after it’s all said and done! Continue reading to see just what I’ve come up with!
Suggestions To Make It Through
Invite Your Church to Pray and Fast
There is nothing else I know that’s more powerful than prayer and fasting. We see throughout scripture just how effective this tactic is. Take Queen Esther for example. She was a Jewish woman married to King Xerxes, a man easily swayed by the people to his right and left. So you can imagine that when he was convinced to sign an irreversible decree to have all Jewish people in his Kingdom killed, it would have been extremely scary for Esther. So what did she do? Did she give up? Did she stop believing in God’s authority to get her through? NO!
With the advice of her uncle, Mortdecai, Esther took a stand and started believing that she was there for “such a time as this.” She called for all of the Jewish people in the kingdom to fast and pray for three days. She needed them to join her as an act of courage for the decisions she was going to make in the coming days. Maybe Esther’s story seems much more extreme, but there are many similarities we can glean from! We too are facing tremendous amounts of pressure swaying us to the left and right with the Covid pandemic. Let’s agree to take a stand, join our congregations in fasting and prayer, and remain faithful to the One who is in control of it all.
Jesus Himself saw the value of fasting. It allowed Him to grow in a deep connection with the Father in a way that only fasting can allow. The point of fasting is not to go on a diet. It isn’t to go on a hunger strike to prove that you can. It is about giving something up in order to spend time and connect with God in a new and different way. It is designed as a “spiritual mirror” in a sense. You are physically hungry, thus it prompts you to look and be spiritually hungry. I encourage you to grow your hunger and stir it up! Don’t let it die out, but use it to pursue more of God!
Here are a few simple prayers that I personally love to pray. They can be short, but God still responds. I promise! Sometimes we get caught up in feeling like our words have to be fancy and dramatic to please God, but I’ve found that it’s just the opposite. It mentions in Psalms that He has no use for the referenced “burnt offerings” but desires a “broken and contrite heart” instead. Pray these simple prayers from your heart and see what He will do!
“Jesus! I thank you that you are in control! Show me something today that helps me believe this even more!”
“Father God, I thank you for your mercy. Please show mercy to us and teach us how to show mercy to others in this time of need.”
“Jesus, You are King over all sickness and disease. They have not defeated you and never will! Heal our land and make us united. Make us one as You and the Father are one, Lord!”
“Holy Spirit. We thank you for your presence. Draw near to those with a broken heart, that have lost loved ones, or who have suffered in isolation and loneliness in this time. Give them the strength to push forward and let them cling fast to your kindness and wisdom. Amen.”
Take Advantage of the Resources You DO Have
I’ll be honest. I have a hard time using things that are right in front of me sometimes. When I was in school I was often caught in the mundane day-to-day life that a student experiences. I would consistently think “I hate being here.” I “couldn’t see the forest for the trees” as the saying goes. I had so many resources to grow in my abilities, whether it was music or writing skills. I even could have grown in math, despite it seeming like my “worst enemy.”
Seeing the resources in front of you may be hard for you as well with everything going on these days. But it’s extremely important to look at what we have in front of us in this season and use it to our biggest advantage! One of the things you should certainly look into if you are not doing it already is the possibility of streaming your service in an online format. This helps you to stay connected to your congregation and keep a sense of community in the church despite physical distance. Don’t neglect this just because you may be having in-person services again! Your stream can be enhanced with church presentation software, and luckily, you’ve come to the right place if you’re reading this. MediaShout offers a powerful but simple program. Even though technology can be scary and daunting at times, MediaShout makes displaying lyrics and scripture or announcements and sermon points as easy and effortless as possible. Customers also receive continued free support throughout the week with email and live chats and over-the-phone support through the Plus Membership. You can even try a free 30-day trial if you’re only in the exploration stage with church presentation software.
As a company and a team, MediaShout’s main goal in serving the Church right now is to help in whatever way we can with your technical questions or difficulties. We’d love for you to know that you are NOT alone in this! The truth is, just because we’ve been separated from one another in quarantine, we are not completely isolated… (Isolation can often be associated with negative experiences in our mental, physical, and even spiritual health). If we take advantage of the technology we have at our disposal as churches, we will limit these feelings and learn to grow as a family in an entirely different way.
We’ve compiled some resources on how to stream, as well as some further ideas on what you can do to respond to Covid-19 in our churches. We’d love to hear what you think about them. Leave a comment below if you have questions or thoughts and we’ll be sure to respond as soon as we can!
Go The Extra Mile
This suggestion is a personal favorite of mine, as a person who loves being able to connect and interact with people. I personally have a very high physical affection love language, along with quality time and words of affirmation. The book “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman has helped me navigate how to feel loved and accept love. With that being said, it has been very easy for me to feel, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, “isolated” at this time. It is easy to step into a “victim mentality,” if you will. It feels like no one is there for you and it’s all because of “x, y, or z.”
A significant thing that has enabled me to overcome this mentality is that friends, family, or church leaders have taken the time to give me a quick phone/video call, text, or even share a funny post with me on social media. In fact, it even happened to me today. I was feeling a little down and out. Then, out of nowhere, my small group leader texted me, “Hey man, how are you?” When stuff like this happens, it makes me feel like I am worth time and friendship. In thinking about this for others, going the extra mile in your relationships can make a world of difference. It can be sending a handwritten letter or maybe a thoughtful gift. What really matters is the thought and effort placed into doing these things. When we’re all back together in healthy churches and in healthy congregations, I hope we don’t live with regret for missed opportunities in how we responded to the Coronavirus as a church. Rather, I hope we live with a newfound sense of what it means to truly value being present with each other both inside and outside of our church communities.
What To Do When We Get Back
Have A Moment of Thankfulness
Many more churches are open nowadays thanks to the vaccine and safety precautions! However, some others aren’t so lucky, maybe due to older congregation members, or local governments still enforcing lockdowns. The day will inevitably come however when all churches will finally be re-opened. Maybe we’ll throw confetti, sing songs of celebration, or break into a massive choreographed dance just like our favorite Disney movies. Or maybe it will feel much more “normal” (whatever that is). But we do have a lot to look forward to once we return to church after COVID. My hope is that when that time comes, we will be connected in a much deeper and more meaningful way than before. It’s important to hold on to the things we learned in this odd time of our lives. They may come in handy when we all finally find ourselves meeting together in gatherings again!
Let’s just stop for a second, pause, and remind ourselves that our God is faithful. Even if we’re not quite there yet, we will be soon! God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians, allowed David to conquer a giant, and redeemed humanity with the mercy of the Cross. He has not left nor forsaken us and He never will! I believe there is nothing that makes the enemy more discouraged and angry than when we rejoice in the face of adversity.
I love what Romans 5:3-5 (ASV) says:
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
So take a moment and reflect on what you’re grateful for. Breath deep and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit around you. Think of a time you felt most connected to the Father. What did that feel like? Was it warm and fuzzy? Did it feel like a hug? Did He say anything to you? What did He say? Tell him how thankful you are for that moment and invite Him to share even more moments like that with you as you move forward.
Be sure to share one or two of the things that have impacted your life or that you’re thankful for from this time of quarantine in the comments below so we can rejoice together.
Take Advantage of What You LEARNED:
If you’ve navigated the quarantine at all, there’s no doubt you may be a streaming expert if you’re like many of us. You’ve mastered the art of keeping your church creative and moving forward, in a time when the opposite has been spoken over you by countless sources. Great job! Now what you get to do is continue to expand! Don’t settle for the same old routine of putting scripture on the screen and calling it a day. You’ve proven to yourself you can do more than just that.
“What can I do?”, you might ask. Well, how about spicing things up with new media content? Maybe utilize backgrounds such as unique video loops, textures, or images. There are plenty of resources for this and we’ve compiled a list of free and paid-for media just for you! Resources like these are an especially appealing alternative to creating your own videos, which can be pretty exhausting and time-consuming unless you have a large media department. Updating your collection of media can be an easy and effective way to promote a modern feel and look to your service overall. As mentioned previously, we have tons of resources for training and support. Best of all, there are ways to get started at no cost, like a free trial of MediaShout, the program at the center of it all.
Communicate The Practical Side to Your Church
More than anything else, your congregation needs to feel safe and cared for. Especially in a time like this, we need to keep our friends and family in our hearts and minds as we decide to move forward in reopening the church.
1 Peter 5:2 (ASV) highlights this:
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve;”
The “flock” is under your care. How you maintain this flock honors both God and the people you serve.
A few easy examples to highlight how much you care can be as simple as these five simple steps:
- Clean your church facility as thoroughly as possible before reopening the doors. Make sure all surfaces that have been touched or will be touched are cleansed with a disinfectant and other cleaning products.
- Post signs that are easily readable to show and reflect the guidelines of physical interaction. Use Facebook, Instagram, emails, and any other way you can to let people know you’re taking precautions to maintain health at church, and inform them on how they can do the same! Though the quarantine may be over, you’ll want folks to feel secure that any trace of the virus itself, as well as other germs, are eliminated. As an added tip, be sure to put an emphasis on the health of others by limiting what kind of physical touch is acceptable in your church. You can look to the health precautions approved by the CDC for a solid way to ensure the safety of your church.
- Pray over the sanctuary, the chairs, the people, and the meeting BEFORE it begins. This is a really powerful move spiritually and I believe it can be extremely helpful. Think of Ephesians 6:12— “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Bind things in the spiritual realm that would come to harm your congregation!
- Continue online streaming and making teaching resources available for members who would still prefer to stay home. It is inevitable that many may still feel a bit hesitant to return to the church or public gatherings. This is totally understandable, especially if some members of your congregation are a bit older and more susceptible to the effects of the virus. Keep an online presence for these individuals and families, as well as online donation options to continue to allow everyone to participate in your ministry during this time.
- Let the Holy Spirit dictate your next steps! I personally believe we’re on the verge of a huge move of God in our nation—a move of which we’re already seeing the precursors! God is on the move and He’s awaiting our response. Give Him your “yes” and see what He’ll do with it. He’s looking for our obedience, even if it contradicts our own mindsets at times. He’s a good God who will not mislead you. Psalms 119:105 (ASV) says “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And light unto my path.” Let His Holy Word and Spirit guide you into the new season we’re moving towards. Keep on accepting His invitations!
Obviously, the list could go on and on for these ideas. There are countless numbers of things that you can and should do when reopening your church. Luckily we’ve found some amazing resources to help you out even further in this journey. The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has some amazing tips and suggestions to help you out, and there is a very helpful article from William Vanderbloeman that’s available. Be sure to check those out as well for further information.
The Big Takeaway
The biggest takeaway I hope you get from this is the importance to take moments throughout your day to simply be thankful, especially during this season. Be thankful for the things you have and the things that are close to you. It’s easy to miss them in the busy lives we often lead. This coronavirus has forced us to slow down to take time with loved ones, to reach out to those we care about, and to show the Church that despite our physical separation, we are still connected. We’ve discussed possibilities of what it looks like to reopen church and how we should navigate those waters too.
There is an unlimited number of possibilities for what may happen next in our lives. We are all very limited in what we know for sure. Luckily, we know the God who knows everything, from beginning to end. He is sitting on His throne, not worried about a single thing. He’s passionate about us, He longs to connect with us, and He longs to see us connected with one another.
As you take a moment to look for the simple things God has placed in your life, take a few moments to listen to a song called “Simple Things” by my friend and amazing songwriter, Colin Powers. This song has meant a lot to me personally during the quarantine. I hope it will give you an expression for the feelings you may have experienced during this time of being “disconnected,” and encourage you to stop, pause, and reflect on all the simple yet beautiful things we all get to experience moving forward.
If you have thoughts to add to the conversation, I’d love to hear them. So what are some things you’re doing to prepare to reopen the church? How is God working even in this pandemic for you and your congregation? Comment below!