By Matt Rusten; reprinted from Made to Flourish.
With each new day, we are inundated with frightening numbers. The pandemic has upended life as we know it.
Pastors and churches are beginning to respond, as they demonstrate the love of Christ in tangible ways. In times like these, it is important to listen and learn from our sisters and brothers across the country, even as we pray and discern how God might be leading us all to act.
Among the many ways churches are responding, here are four:
Personally Check in with Your Members
With many churches moving services online, churches are taking steps to connect with their congregations, especially those who may be particularly vulnerable at this time.
Pastor Bill Gorman is leading his staff to identify all people who have attended at least three times in the past three months, and calling each one individually. They ask five questions that deal with five aspects of human need.
Belonging. How are the people around you doing?
Livelihood. How is all of this affecting you financially?
Emotional. How are you feeling right now?
Spiritual. How have you been experiencing God in all of this?
Safety. How is your health?
In a larger church context, small group leaders or volunteer care teams could be equipped with these check-in questions (which form the acronym BLESS), to determine pastoral care needs, and pray for people.
Provide People with Practical Suggestions to Pay Bills and Stay Afloat
Alongside the fantastic counsel of many pastors to trust God in the midst of fear, many are also offering very practical and tactical advice to handle paying bills, especially for those whose work has been suspended or reduced.
These practical steps find their model in the New Testament. The same Jesus who said, “fear not” also fed a large, hungry crowd. The same early church who met to pray also devised a practical scheme to serve widows with food distribution.
Pastor Keith Case has offered his congregation the following practical suggestions to spur creative thinking:
- Get a plan: Map out how you can survive the next two months. Are there any bills that you can pay a minimum on or ask for some time?…Keep as much cash on hand as possible.
- Ask for flexibility: If you are renting, ask if the owner would allow you to use last month’s rent or part of your deposit to lower your rent payment for the next few months.
- Lean on family/friends/government: It can feel humiliating and it can be complicated, but are there people in your life that you know would help you out with no strings attached? The no strings attached part is key. Are there family members who have financial resources to help you out during this season (parents, uncles, aunts, brothers, sisters, grandparents, etc.)? Are there friends, or government programs (new ones seem to be popping up daily)?
- Lean on your church: Does you church have people in its pews who are hiring? (Some churches are connecting members to job boards.) Will they share your resume? Do they have a deacon fund that could help offset some of your financial needs right now?
In the midst of fear and uncertainty, churches can offer practical suggestions to help jump start creative solutions.
Draw on Vocational Expertise of the Congregation
In most congregations, there is a wide array of professional expertise and wisdom that can be called upon to help the congregation.
Are there counselors who can provide important insights into mental health? Financial coaches who might help with cash flow planning? Small business owners who can be brought together for brainstorming and mutual encouragement? Personal trainers who can provide practical tools for in home exercise routines? Nurses or doctors who can provide a word of calm for how to care for sick loved ones? Journalists who can tell stories of hope for the congregation? Teachers who can help parents think through home education for children who won’t be able to return to school for the rest of the year?
Pastor Jim Mullins recently hosted a Facebook live interview with a health professional, and later, an interview with an educator to assist parents as they become teachers in the home.
In times of great need, the body of Christ can reimagine how we use our vocational talents and expertise to serve one another.
Public Prayer for Workers and All Kinds of Work
Different kinds of workers face unique challenges and risks. As we listen and learn about the myriad ways everyday workers are struggling through the crisis, pastors and churches are beginning to pray for specific vocations. Online tools are being created to help pastors think through how to pray for different kinds of work. As more services move online in the coming weeks and months, specific prayers can be offered for many different kinds of workers.
In the days ahead, we will need to listen and learn from one another to spur creative, entrepreneurial thinking for how to best serve our churches and communities in hundreds of different ways. May the God of all wisdom, who became the servant king, help us in our time of need.