Over the past couple of weeks Coronavirus became very real for many of us, and in the coming weeks will be a reality for all of our churches and communities. This virus has left churches and youth ministries scrambling to figure out what to do and how to respond.
I have seen responses ranging from fear to faith, condemning to affirming responses, arguments to flat out fights, and this was just in pastor and youth ministry groups on Facebook. Isn’t it interesting how in the midst of a global and local pandemic, we can so easily revert inward and become exactly who we don’t need to be?
This week I want to offer some ways to engage with what is happening, tips on how to care for your people, and resources to help you navigate the current situation. My prayer is that we respond with love, compassion, and understanding during a tumultuous and trying time.
Pray and trust God.
This is a no-brainer, right? Wrong. It is easy to let fear and panic overwhelm in our hearts and minds, even as we present ourselves as calm, cool, and collected. Remember that even in the midst of the unknown, God is ever sovereign and still in control. He is neither surprised nor caught off guard, but instead is empowering His bride to continue on and be the vessel that loves His world.
There is a lot going on with the Coronavirus. People are scared and worried. People are consumed by fear and are overwhelmed. Still others are reacting with skepticism and cynicism. In all things we as shepherds and caretakers of our flocks must seek to love and care for them. Hear their thoughts and fears. Listen to their input and be willing to understand how others are feeling and why they are feeling that way.
Affirm your church’s decision and don’t break down others.
We all have reasons for the decision(s) we and our leadership have made and will make. Please stand by the decision and uplift it, especially if it is made by those in leadership over you. The weight of making these decisions is extremely heavy and not something done on a whim. I know many pastors who have agonized over the decision to move to online church services or cancel all together. The potential financial hit is enough to overwhelm any senior pastor.
But even more than affirming the decision your church and ministry is following, don’t accuse or condemn other churches who are not doing the same. Regardless of others’ decisions, let us still be the body of Christ. Let us love each other and look to assist and share resources and information. Rather than question people’s faith and their commitment to their people, we need to understand that everyone is looking to respond to something we have never responded to before.
Don’t forget the easily forgotten.
There are many people who, due to the nature of the virus and the advice of our government, are staying away from large groups. Our elderly congregants are very restricted and isolated. People who deal with anxiety and chronic fear are scared of what is happening. You may have church-goers who are quarantined. And there are people who love to be around others, but because of social distancing, cannot. Check in with these people. Call them, FaceTime them, ask if they need anything. Organize, love, and care for those who could easily disappear.
Remember your college students.
Many colleges and universities are suspending on-campus activities and sending students home. This means that our college ministries are now in a great position to minister to our students. Their lives have been disrupted; some seniors are unsure of whether they will graduate now. This is a prime opportunity to care for these students and let them know they are loved and valued. Send them a text, host a Zoom gathering, or if you’re still able to, meet them for coffee. A little intentionality will go a long way with your students.
Care for your community.
In as much as the next days, weeks, and months may feel uncertain for us as church employees and volunteers, this new normal provides amazing opportunities for us to care for our communities. My senior pastor has put it this way, “This our opportunity to be good neighbors.”
Let me encourage you to think about how you could care for first responders, hospital workers, nursing homes, students who won’t have meals now that schools are closed, grocery store employees, and whomever else God brings to mind. You may not be able to go to into all these areas due to restrictions, but you can open communication lines and see how you can come alongside and love them. Let us love our neighbors as ourselves, especially in times such as these.
Download Youth Ministry – The DYM team has put out some free resources to help youth ministries love, care, and minister to their people during this time. There are lessons, tips on streaming videos, social media resources, videos, games, small group resources, and much more. There is also a really helpful article that they put out entitled “5 questions parents can ask their kids about Coronavirus” to help students and children process through their emotions, thoughts, and feelings.
Restream – This is a great resource if you are looking for a product to stream your services or programming on a different platform than Facebook Live or Instagram Live. There is a free option as well as two paid options depending on your needs.
LiveReacting – This is a resource that allows for you to create interactive Facebook Live videos. You can load pre-recorded videos, play games, create polls, and more all through this one platform. There is a free trial version if you just want to try it out, as well as monthly subscription plans.
Outreach.com – This organization is offering a free live streaming service for churches that plans to go live on March 20th. Check out freeonlinechurch.com to submit your email to be on the list of people who can sign up when it launches. This is a great option for smaller churches or youth programs looking to stream services and content.
Ministry to Parents – This is typically a subscription-based service that any youth program should sign up for, but with everything going on they have put out a really helpful article on talking to families about fears and the Coronavirus. This not only offers helpful steps, but it also has additional links for more information and resources.
Parent Cue – Another great resources to always be engaged with, Parent Cue has put together a really helpful article on “Managing fear and anxiety during a health pandemic.” It provides great talking points, helpful links and suggestions, and suggestions for managing life going forward.
Red Cross – The Red Cross has put out an article to help cope with this present reality. This article is extremely helpful for thinking about those who are dealing with fear, isolation, stress, and all the emotions coming through this time.
Church Leaders – Church Leaders shared a very comprehensive guide for dealing with the Coronavirus as a church. This is also available for download so you can have it handy to give to your staff teams. This can be easily adapted to your church and context, and it is super beneficial to have a ready-made guide to help build out your plan.