Yesterday, almost all churches have gone to some kind of digital gathering. In the last 1-1.5 weeks, youth leaders are figuring out what’s their best approach in light of social distancing (some have suggested using the term “physical distancing” instead). Some observations I’ve (Alvin) made (without any too conclusive):
The way we approach ministry is shifting dramatically (obvious statement).
It’s pushed us to lean on more networks of support. I’ve seen numerous opportunities for youth leaders who may not regularly gather, to collaborate virtually and share some best practices. I heard one idea (from Alberta I believe) shared was doing “drive way” visitations where someone drives up to a friend’s place, parks their car and converses (even briefly) with their friend at a safe distance.
It will push some to consider methods and practices we didn’t consider before (using certain technologies). It will take us out of our comfort zone. For the sake of the kingdom, shouldn’t we at least consider?
We can’t default to one specific method. We all have certain medium that we default to. However, we’ll need to consider what medium makes the most sense of a specific audience, for what specific purpose within one’s specific parameters. For instance, at my church (Mimico Baptist Church), we’re using Facebook Live as our service streaming medium (because we realized our internet bandwidth couldn’t stream YouTube Live well). For our Bible studies, we’re looking to either Zoom, free conference call services or WeChat. At this point, these seem to be the best channels for particular groups within our church. We’ll re-evaluate and make adjustments.
Don’t be so quick to assume what the next “church default” will look like. I’ve heard some people make some predictions already. The fact is, many of our churches are in a trial-and-error stage. Getting feedback from our audiences/groups within our church family is vital in evaluating and revising best modes of ministry. Let’s not presume one method will work for all contexts (we’ve fallen into that trap too many times). In a few months, it may change again (and likely will).
There are a lot of resources out there (and even more in the last few days). It can feel overwhelming. Don’t feel you need to use them all. See what fits with what you’re hoping to do, and try it for now. (Maybe talk with someone you trust to discern what’s the best direction.)
Lean into your strengths. God has in your role and context for a specific reason. Lean into what he’s made you good at without trying to be everything. From my CBOQ role, I didn’t need to start creating resources (because other people are doing that well), nor did I have to compile a list of resources (because others are doing that well like the one at baptist.ca/covid-19). Rather, I needed to make myself available to help people process. From my Mimico Baptist role, my greatest contribution was to get our live streaming working and to implement our COVID-19 response plan. I left the pastoral care to our pastor because he’s really good at that.
It doesn’t always have to look pretty. While some churches have resources to produce a highly creative experience, others may have a simplified approach. You know your people; you know your neighbourhood. Start from there to help bring them together.
It’s worth it even for a few. Sometimes, we get too concerned with trying to be as wide-reaching or as efficient as possible. It’s good to look at efficiencies and to be good stewards of God’s resources. Given the multitude of self-isolation cases, it’s more important to ensure people recognize they are not alone (even if no one can be physically near them). Taking time to do something even for the one, while it may not seem efficient, is still part of our call as the church.
It’s still about relationships. Yesterday morning, a person virtually had the world at their fingertips. They could easily tap into whatever church service they wanted to experience, for as short or as long as they wanted. Yet so many chose their own church family, not because it was necessarily the best produced or more interactive, but because it’s their church family. Relationships are a vital key part in God’s kingdom (above almost everything else).
Let’s see where God continues to take us.