As church leaders know, we are commissioned to connect people to their faith and our communities. And, since this happens best within the context of relationships, what can the church do to accomplish this mission within the reality of social distancing, and isolation?
For churches who understand that their members are missionaries in, with, and to their neighborhoods and communities, what kinds of spiritual guidance can the church provide those missionaries where they live?
Before we jump in with some creative and practical answers to this question, it’s a great time to take a step back and ask ourselves: Have we perhaps missed a tremendous opportunity during the past six months?
In a recent Cary Nieuwhof podcast, Jon Tyson, pastor of Church of the City in New York City, suggests that we have. In rushing to get back to in-person worship, debating masks and plans for enhancing virtual worship, we can still continue to miss the mission! One of the first things we can do is to acknowledge that online virtual ministry is not going away. And, that everyone who participates online is longing to be part of your church community. We also must recognize that our Sunday-morning services will look different for the foreseeable future.
While I wholeheartedly agree with Tyson’s conclusions, I also believe there is still time to focus our energies on the mission. We can realign our current efforts and create new opportunities to help connect members to our mission. Isn’t that worth our best shot?
So, what are some ways right now, in this current reality, of establishing habits and practices that connect people to our mission when we’re not physically together?
What are some practical ways to connect members to your church?
More specifically, how can we use a virtual environment now (and in the future) to connect scattered churchgoers? I offer these suggestions to stimulate your own. And, along with the suggestions, I share a principle to ponder. As church leaders, it is always important to share the why that undergirds the what of your ministry's work. We should be really clear on our motivations, our why, and freely share it.
Overarching Principle to Ponder: Virtual environments can be powerful sources of connection and have staying power in our mission and ministries.
A few of my friends have gathered every Saturday evening at 4 p.m. on Zoom to pray for our ministry, for our neighborhoods and for our world. Another friend has led a Facebook Live session as she prayer walked in her neighborhood. Forty people jumped on and listened in. What about inviting people to log on to their mobile devices at the same time and Zoom prayer walk together?
Principle to Ponder: Spiritual habits stick when we practice them.
Model and Practice A Spiritual Discipline
One of the couples in my Facebook network leads a Lectio Divina time every week. They go live on Facebook and let their friends watch as they conduct a 30-minute time in the word and prayer using the ancient spiritual discipline called Lectio Divina. Another friend went live on Facebook as their family did morning devotions together. You could invite a friend to use Lectio 365 every day and then check in once a week to talk about what you are learning and feeling.
Principle to Ponder: In order for spiritual disciplines to become more than theory, we must move from teaching to training.
Host A Bible Study
We have used BeLive to have interview-style topical and scripture-centered learning and training opportunities. This tool allows you to stream live on Facebook and YouTube simultaneously. Because of that, it allows for a highly engaging environment. We had one of our members, who has chosen to stay home, and host a Bible Study with 14 others from home.
Principle to Ponder: Everyone gets to play!
Bring People Together To Appreciate One Another
At our last board/staff strategic planning retreat our board chairperson used a tool called polleverywhere.com to have us interact with each other. She had us all type in the tool things we appreciated about the other people on the interactive Zoom church retreat. The tool then immediately creates a word cloud of everyone’s contribution. You can download the word cloud. After the meeting, she emailed everyone the specific things that were said about them!
Principle to Ponder: Every environment can be useful for spiritual training.
Celebrate the Character of God
Meet together online, use polleverywhere.com, and have people list the characteristics of God they most appreciate right now. Then lead a discussion of the most popular answers.
Principle to Ponder: Modern tools can be extremely powerful in drawing us back to God.
Principle to Ponder: Awareness is built by exercising our awareness muscle.
Share Music Online
Start a group session on Spotify of your favorite worship tracks. You could also riff on this and host a group session of a few tunes (not specifically worship tracks) and talk about the spiritual needs the lyrics bring up.
Principle to Ponder: Music can unlock the soul.
Host A Video Watch Party On Facebook
Is there a YouTube video
, a Ted Talk
, a video that teaches, equips, or challenges you? Invite some folks to watch with you and then jump on Zoom to discuss.
Principle to Ponder: You can use great content to nurture great discoveries.
Maintain the Discipline of Accountability
Two men I know asked each other “What five questions would you want me to ask you each week?” They wanted mutual accountability. They wanted to grow their relationship with their families. Each decided on five yes-or no-questions. Each week at a designated time they texted each other the five questions. This is quick, simple, repeatable.
Principle to Ponder: Mutual accountability is the most powerful form of accountability.
A couple of other rules that might help you design and implement your own connection ideas.
1) Keep it simple
2) Use the technology that you and others are already using.
3) Invite people to join you in something you are excited about.
4) Invite someone to join you doing something you normally do.