It’s been more than a month now that we’ve been gathering around smartphones and computer screens instead of in sanctuaries and meeting rooms due to Covid-19. We are all operating in an environment that we have never faced and we’re no longer able to worship in the ways we always have.
By now, most of us have moved to some type of virtual setting using various online methods to stay in touch. You and your staff are settling into a good routine with these methods until your congregation can come together again. And if you’re looking for more ideas, be sure to check out our previous article: How to Stay Connected with Your Church Members
However, many of these methods use some form of electronic or technical connection. So now is a good time to stop and ask: Are any of your members feeling left behind or left out? Are you reaching those members who are not able to join in virtually?
Ways many members may be struggling.
Here are a few ways that we, personally, and our peers are struggling when it comes to church at home.
- Prayer. Sometimes it’s difficult to pray alone. It’s hard to hear a prayer over the TV … you somehow don’t feel … connected. Some feel their prayers are just sort of getting repetitive now.
- Singing. Some online services can’t show the words to songs. Or we don’t have hymn books in hand to follow along with the music. Some people may feel a bit awkward singing to their TV screen, or if your church has dropped music altogether, some may really miss that.
- Anxiety. Some members may need to hear that it’s okay to not feel okay. That doesn’t mean you have less faith. You’re just human, and this is a very anxious time.
- Loneliness. Ever hear the phrase “lonely in a crowd”? Sometimes when we’re meeting virtually, our loneliness can carry over. There is no replacement for one-on-one interaction to lift a lonely spirit.
Check in with members that may not be online.
So, then the question remains, how exactly can you check in on your members?
Here are some ways to reach out to them:
- Call members directly. Think about the members of your congregation and their needs, especially if you have an older congregation. Reach out to them directly with a phone call. We believe that once you begin talking with your members, your next steps will become clearer. It all starts with a conversation.
- Mail care-packages. It’s amazing how exciting it is to get the mail now that we’re stuck at home. Mailing care-packages that include prayers, Scripture printouts, devotions and Bible activities are all helpful. Consider sending an updated printed directory (choose to include pictures, if using InstantChurchDirectory.com’s print directory feature).
Looking for resources? Check out these FREE resources from our sister publications:
- Devotions, Bible Puzzles and Printable Prayers by HometouchMinistry.com
- Printable Scripture Cards by ChurchArt.com
- Scripture Placemat Coloring Pages, Children’s Bulletins and Children’s Bible Stories by Children’s Worship Bulletins
- Consider drive-in church services or office hours. Your church may have already considered — or conducted — drive-in church services, but have you considered drive-in office hours? This may be a great way for members to come speak with the pastor face-to-face, without breaking social distancing requirements.
Some members will be afraid to speak up because they don’t want to come across as negative or ungrateful. The best way to mitigate this is to be very pointed in your questions.
For example: “How are you doing?” will more than likely result in a blanket “I’m fine.” Rather, ask “How are you doing at home by yourself? Are you feeling lonely? Is someone getting groceries for you? How are you doing without seeing your son/daughter/grandson/granddaughter?”
To make the task a little easier, let your staff, leadership or even members bring their ideas to the table. Many may be more than willing to help — such as being a buddy or designated person to ensure a specific family or member does not feel isolated or alone.
Provide lots of ways for members to reach you.
During this time, it is more important than ever to be sure there are ample ways for members to reach you. Make sure members know how to reach staff, via text, phone call or email, so that every member can easily reach out if they’re feeling lost. This could be as simple as providing a special phone number for prayers at the end of the service, or a special message during the service to assure members that the church is there for them.
Check in with members that are meeting online.
There have been many blessings in today’s technology for connecting with one another. Small Group Video Options allows members to see each other face-to-face — smiling and encouraging one another. Facebook Live lets you interact with each other via comments and reactions.
But don’t forget about members who are tuning in to your video feed. They may be watching you on Facebook Live, but they may also need a more private, interactive connection with their church leaders.
Check in with your leadership.
This new way of conducting church can be extremely stressful and taxing for your pastor or church leadership. They are learning — sometimes on the fly — new ways of reaching members and communicating with them. They may be beginning to feel overwhelmed or burned out by the new challenges and problems that arise.
Here are some ways to protect your pastor, church staff or leadership from being inundated or burned out:
- Set specific times to reach your pastor or church leadership about business. Just as the church has office hours, it’s okay to limit the number of 6 a.m. or 11 p.m. phone calls or texts that may come in. Leave those times for emergencies only.
- Be sure the load is distributed. Distribute the workload appropriately so that it does not fall to just one or two leaders.
- Encourage leadership to take time for self-care. The fastest way to burn out is to spend every moment worrying about the church and its future. Just like it’s important for you to “secure your own oxygen mask before assisting others” on a plane, it’s important for leadership to know it’s okay to practice self-care — spiritually or physically — when needed.
- Create a church leadership “pep ministry.” Ask some members of the church to “cheer on” a specific church leader during this time. Members can be tasked to pray for them, send words of encouragement, or coordinate special appreciation parades or gifts.
Just know that when we’re all finally able to be together again, we’ll be reunited with a stronger connection than ever!