Over the millennia, the church has stepped up during crises and shined the light of the world in our darkest hours. This is a unique moment in history. Millions of Americans are out of work. Many communities are sheltering in place, waiting for this adversity to pass. And the sick and elderly are more isolated than ever.
It’s an important time for the church to be the church. Congregations across the country have explored ways to bring ministries online, looking beyond their weekend services to small groups, youth ministries, kidmins, Bible studies, and other essential church functions.
A lot of creative serving opportunities have emerged as well. If your church is looking to be a leader in your community and serve those who are hurting and vulnerable right now, here are a few innovative ideas to consider:
1. Sponsor your congregation’s acts of generosity
When your church can’t physically gather in groups, a lot of ministry activities become extremely difficult. But every single member of your church lives in close proximity to other people. They have neighbors, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances who may be in serious need of help right now.
Some church members have likely been proactive and bought groceries, medicine, toilet paper, and other essentials for people they know.
But others need a nudge to step up and serve those around them. And your church may have the ability to remove one of the biggest barriers to these acts of generosity.
When COVID-19 started closing down Washington State, New Heights Church in Vancouver decided to sponsor their congregation’s impromptu acts of generosity with what they called a COVID-19 $100 reimbursement. Any members who bought groceries, gas, medicine, or other essentials for someone in need, they could simply send the receipt to the church and get reimbursed.
2. Offer your campus to local COVID-19 efforts
Church leaders put a lot of thought into choosing strategic locations for their campuses. Not only does your church facility likely have ample parking and space for people, but odds are it’s in a fairly central location in your community. While you may not be “open” as usual, you might be in a position to use your campus to host important COVID-19 efforts.
For several days, Church of the Highlands used their campus in Grants Mill, Alabama to host a COVID-19 drive-thru testing center. A local lab used their parking lot to facilitate more than 2,000 tests.
As homeless shelters have worked to adapt to shelter-in-place orders and social distancing guidelines, many have had to reduce the number of people they can care for or else find locations that can supplement their own facility. Some churches have made their campuses available for overflow from other homeless services or expanded their ministries in other ways.
Schools obviously have their own centrally-located facilities, but as districts try to find ways to provide meals to kids or distribute supplies, your campus may be more accessible to some of their students. So you might consider talking to your local district officials about ways your facility can support their efforts.
3. Create a generosity box
With millions of Americans filing for unemployment and struggling to make ends meet, this would be a valuable time to build a generosity box. Like a neighborhood library, a generosity box lets people take what they need or donate what they can afford to share.
Your staff can keep it supplied with essentials like non-perishable food, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and other new items people in your community need right now. You can encourage your congregation to use it and help keep it supplied, and as word spreads, other members in your community will inevitably contribute as well. By placing it in a visible location on your campus with clear signage and promoting it on social media, more people will be aware of this simple way to get and give help locally.
Note: You’ll probably want your signage to recommend items for people to donate in order to avoid unhelpful donations.
4. Teach local churches how to use tech
By now, most churches have at least tried to establish some form of digital ministry. But they’re having mixed success. Every year thousands of churches shut their doors for good. But this year some may have to cease their ministries simply because they couldn’t survive the switch to digital.
Churches that have embraced digital solutions for years have made a smooth transition and avoided many of the potential blunders that can come with choosing and implementing new tech. Long before this, they ironed out the wrinkles and found solutions that work. If that’s you, you can do your local church community a huge service by volunteering your expertise to less tech-savvy churches who are struggling to get online.
Not only will this cause local church leaders to look to your team as an example, but it means your church could play an integral role in the survival of some local congregations, and you’ll be indirectly serving a far greater number of fellow believers who need to receive hope, wisdom, and love from their church right now.
Keep being the church
A lot of people are really struggling right now. A lot of churches are too. But the churches who are financially and spiritually healthy right now have a huge opportunity to serve their community and help the global church persevere. This is a time for churches to rally together, support one another, and inspire each other to get creative about ministry.