Love One Another: Ways to Engage Your Community in the Time of Coronavirus
By Bryan Tener
"This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other." John 13:35 CEB
They’ll know we are disciples when we offer love, but what are ways we, as the church, can do that while social distancing? As we live into this new reality, we are gathering ideas and resources to offer the local church. We hope that it will be an encouraging and empowering resource for you and your church as we find ourselves to be a distributed community of faith. You’re invited to share your ministry ideas and practices that you are doing already with us.
Barna recently published research findings on the shifting nature of the church. Concerning the use of virtual sermons, just two percent of practicing Christians reported that they attended a church using online video or livestream, with ninety-seven percent attending in-person. But just as this report was distributed, the current pandemic has moved the church to change in a radically new way when it comes to what it means to be present and gather as a people. Now online is the only way we can gather safely, not just for our own safety but for the safety of others in the congregation and community. We are just in the beginning, but we already have experienced major shifts in how we live as a community, a neighborhood, a city, a nation, a global community, and a church. The pandemic will continue to change how we live as we continue to adapt and live into practices that will keep everyone as safe and healthy as possible. But soon, people will go back to working in the office, waiting tables, working out at the gym; and students will return to school. When that happens, we want to be prepared to engage our communities in ways that deepen relationships, strengthen community, and offer hope and Resurrection living. But we don’t want to wait for all this to pass to do that. We want to continue to engage our communities, so that people will feel connected, feel encouraged and strengthened, and experience hope for today. As we prepare for the future, we want to learn from how we’re connecting now. What are best practices for continuing to engage our neighborhoods, community, schools, and gathering places in the challenge that we find ourselves in? How does this prepare us for future church and the changing landscape of discipleship?
Right now, we are preparing resources for engaging local schools and communities for that time when going back to school for the new school year happens; and at the same time, we are collecting ideas and best practices for connecting with your community from examples from what local churches are doing now. As we gather examples and ideas, we will share them so we can all learn and grow in how we connect with those around us. In the meantime, I invite you to share with me stories of how your church is connecting with your community, how you are growing these connections, and how you are reaching out. I invite you to email me at [email protected].
This is a challenging time, but challenging times are also an opportunity: an opportunity to grow in our trust in God’s promise that we are never alone; an opportunity to offer our best selves to others; an opportunity to discover and live into new ways of connecting; an opportunity to offer Resurrection hope. Prayers as you lead and guide in this challenge that you would experience God’s presence, know the grace of a deeper connection with neighbor, and live into the hope of new life and that your community would know this through you. I look forward to hearing all your practices of connecting, and I look forward to sharing those with you as well.
Grace and Peace,