Top 10 Best Practices of Healthy Churches During the Virus
At Lipscomb University where I work as vice president for church services, we are checking in with hundreds of churches, church leaders, community leaders and medical professionals. As we try to harmonize all the helpful advice and resources and make them available to you, here is our Top Ten Best Practices of Healthy Churches:
1. Focus upon Prayer.
These churches have a Prayer Team, a Prayer Hotline (email address) and have prayer warriors standing by ready to practice James 5 as members, friends and families become ill. These churches host “seasons of prayer” on Zoom and invite members to join in regular “prayer meetings.” The church might have a timely pneumonic prayer focus like “HALT the Virus” where the “H” stands for Healing, the “A” stands for Attitudes, the “L” for Loving actions and the “T” for the Testimony of Jesus. These churches believe corporate prayers can have a significant impact on the virus solution.
These churches have planned strategies for communication and are communicating regularly with members, ministry leaders and families in general and specific ways. These churches are using email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and communication tools like Zoom and GoToMeeting to stay connected. Short video clips are sent out weekly from ministers, and members have an easy way to get information to the office in a “call-forwarding world.” Helpful tools like an elder email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) and even an app help keep members connected (contact me if your church needs assistance). These churches know that over-communicating right now is nearly impossible.
3. Hold Vibrant Weekly Services.
Churches are staying connected to their congregation through regular virtual weekly services. Some churches are prerecording services, while others are holding a service at the regular time with a minimal crew of ten. Churches are giving people familiar songs to sing, scriptures to comfort them and a message of hope. The Lord’s Supper centers the church on the cross and the hope of the resurrection. Some churches are:
- using interviews to hear from members with a unique yet biblical perspective,
- handing out communion packets for members at the office–even better, deacons are delivering them using safe and sanitary protocols,
- asking for prayer requests to be emailed in at the beginning of the service with an elder praying towards the end,
- broadcasting the service on YouTube, Facebook or a web site.
4. “Double their Efforts” on Small Groups.
If a church must “grow small in order to grow large,” then at this critical time a church must be especially vigilant. Healthy churches are encouraging members to dive into small groups, communicating with small group leaders to check on the flock and giving extra resources so groups can meet more regularly. Healthy churches are striving for weekly gatherings of groups for updates, discussion, prayer and mutual support. This is the life-line of the church during long seasons of social distancing and healthy churches are focusing attention and resources for added success in this space.
5. Have an Online Giving Strategy.
Congregations have a local focus and also an international mission. More than ever, missionaries around the globe need prayers and also resources during this global pandemic. Healthy congregations are not afraid to ask people to keep giving regularly and sacrificially to maintain the ministry of the church. Generosity during medical and economic uncertainty is part of the testimony of the church to the world–it shows our trust in Jesus. Envelopes are sent to members who mail in checks, and all email communication regularly includes an explanation of how to give online. Older members are encouraged to remember the church in their Required Minimum Distributions and then also in their estate planning. Churches are not afraid to ask for on-going support if they believe in their mission.
6. Have a Calling & Caring Team.
These congregations have a systemized way of calling and caring for their members–especially the most vulnerable. As early as Acts 6 we find the church organizing in order to care for the vulnerable and the neglected with a strategy that had deacons and their spouses going house to house to feed and care for the elderly. Healthy churches are calling members and checking on flocks. Deacons are dropping by communion supplies. Women of the church are checking on older women–making sure they are fed and provided for well.
- Phase Two: Healthy Churches have formed a team to assist members who have been laid off or had hours curtailed through a “Good Samaritan Fund.” This fund has leadership and parameters approved by the elders for how support will be given. This fund is internal to the membership of the church, “doing good first of all to the household of faith.”
- Phase Three: Healthy Churches are beginning to task a team of members to help get the membership back to work after the virus. Members who have trade and construction skills, hair stylists, home cleaning services, etc. are being placed on a list so members know to turn to them for their needs–supplying business to those in need. Members are teaching other members new trade and computer skills online, preparing them to find work after the virus.
7. Empower Parents to Program the Home.
The value of a great children’s minister or youth minister has NEVER been more greatly appreciated! Be sure and thank your workers. But in these days of “stay in place,” equipping parents to guide children in spiritual conversations is critical. These ministers are seeing their primary task as one of equipping parents, and secondarily communicating with children. Giving parents tools for Palm Sunday, Passover, Easter and beyond (see some ideas below) help to build special moments into the confinement. A question a day parents can ask children at dinner, a scripture to read, etc. is also of great value.
8. Are Not Reaching Out as much as Equipping Members to Reach INTO Their Communities.
These healthy congregations are encouraging creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit among members. Ministry staff are equipping members to: share their testimonies online, organize drive-by birthday parties, gather at the top of a hill to march down (6 feet apart of course!) with palm leaves for Palm Sunday, host a Sunday afternoon stroll or Easter Parade on bicycles, etc. Members are thinking through how to be a blessing to their neighbors and are getting out of their comfort zones–and healthy churches are empowering and equipping them.
9. Show Generosity in Giving of Their Time and Talents to Serve the Marginalized.
Healthy churches have prioritized caring for the poor, the disabled and the downtrodden. They believe that pure religion involves caring for the widow and widower, the aged and the orphan. These churches know they cannot help everyone and are intentional about serving generously in the places where they are already invested. Relational service and ongoing support for a community allows these churches to target an area and provide holistic help in the name of Jesus to a community they will continue to serve after the virus has run its course.
10. Are NOT Competing for Members or Market Share–but Are Busy Lifting Up Jesus.
Healthy churches are rooting for other healthy churches–they are working together and encouraging one another. Healthy ministers are sharing best practices and brainstorming ideas that allow churches to come together to be the body of Christ. These churches know the times are too critical to be divisive, petty or small. These churches know that the time is short, the mission is critical and the full body of Christ is needed to minister through this crisis.
(Originally published in Lipscomb University’s Church Services Newsletter. Used with permission.)