While many of us are sheltering in place, we wanted to share some of the great tips we’ve seen from churches staying in touch even when the church family can’t gather in one space.
PROMINENT LINK TO A “STAY CONNECTED” PAGE
One very helpful thing is to put a special section at the top of your church’s website addressing the situation. Currently, Gateway Church has just such a section at the top of their site. Their banner starts with the words “Stay Connected” in bold type and features a “Learn More” link. This leads to a page with different ways to contact the church including text messaging, a contact form, social media links and introductory videos about their church. It also has information about the current COVID-19 pandemic and safe ways to worship. If your site doesn’t have such a link near the top of the page, consider adding one!
USE TECHNOLOGY TO SEE YOUR CHURCH FAMILY FACE TO FACE
Parent Cue has a wonderful article about staying connected during COVID-19. One of the best tips they give is using free programs such as Skype, Zoom and Google Hangouts (to name a few) to have “face time” with your extended church family! Their suggestions include a video “picnic” where everyone enjoys a snack together, or a parent conference. The sky’s the limit on how your church could use the technology, with prayer meetings, classes and more all being possible!
Many churches including St. Lucas United Church of Christ have found a way to bring audio or video versions of their sermons to their worshippers. This is a wonderful idea for two reasons: 1) it gives your church a permanent record of your sermons and 2) it allows many more people to worship. An online record of sermons can help the visually and hearing impaired, those who are too ill to attend a sermon in person, those who cannot arrange transportation, those who are forced to work on Sunday, and so many more. With the current COVID-19 emergency, many more people are forced to stay at home on Sunday. Sermon recordings bring you to them even in the home!
Want to start streaming your sermons but don’t know where to start? Here’s a fantastic article by United Methodist Churches of Indiana. They also suggest copying and pasting your sermons to create blog posts, which can then be shared on social media!
THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Many churches have turned to Facebook Live to deliver their sermons. Carmel Christian Church turned to the platform in order to continue delivering their sermons during a state-wide shelter in place order. Grace Church has both a “Watch Online” and a “Watch on FB Live” option on their website. Indianola First UMC has links to their Facebook Live sermons and classes prominently featured on their front page. Pastor Duane Mullen of Schleswig United Church of Christ has been able to adapt to offering video sermons on his church’s facebook page using his own cellphone, mounted on a camera tripod, to record him each Sunday.
It doesn’t have to end with sermons, either. Christianity Today suggests setting up a Facebook Group for bible studies. Bible apps and other websites provide free bible study plans worshippers can download and enjoy together.
Lastly, many churches are able to encourage and uplift their worshippers by making inspiring posts on social media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These posts can range from an excerpt from a sermon, stories of inspiring behavior or inspiring pictures from within your church community, or uplifting passages from The Scripture.
CHARITABLE WORKS FROM HOME
Another important feature of the Grace Church website is the Grace Care Center, that enables those in need to order food online from their church pantry, make donations, and request financial assistance. You can offer texting, a contact form, a phone number to call, or other ways for the needy to contact your church and request help. In addition, you can list ways for those who would like to help to donate their time, skills, or money! Many people are already sewing masks and preparing meals for those in need. You can use your website to help bring them together!
ONLINE CHURCH DIRECTORIES
In the first weeks of the pandemic, College Wesleyan Church staff were busy calling as many of their members as they could. The executive pastor, Emily Vermilya, spoke in this article about how essential it was for her to let her people know they were missed, and to make sure they had what they needed. Christianity Today further reminds us that there’s nothing wrong with writing letters to your members either!
Clearly, having a record of all of your members’ updated contact information is essential for reaching them and letting them know they are not alone. An online church directory is the perfect solution. Online directories offer a place to keep track of all your church staff and church members’ contact information such as emails, phone numbers and home addresses, as well as profile pictures! And you can also use apps like CTRN Online Church Directory to contact them directly if needed.
If you’d like to see what an online church directory can do for you, we invite you to try our free 30 day trial! We don’t ask for a credit card number so there’s no risk and no obligation, and you get to use the full version, not a severely limited “trial version.”
We hope some of these tips and free resources might be helpful to you in the days ahead! Stay safe.