Updated December 2020
Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. As you well know, many traditional church and hospitality practices have been roadblocked this year to protect public health. By this point, we have all transitioned from working off of contingency plans into more permanent situations. Since March, all churches have ridden the roller coaster of shutting their doors for services, to tentatively opening back up, to Sunday service reservations, to exploring live-streaming and other online options, and many more scenarios.
Through it all, this question has remained, regardless of what “phase” of the year we have found ourselves in in: how do you provide hospitality, connection, and care for people when traditional methods won’t necessarily work? At Enable Ministry Partners we are working with churches all over the country as they make these critical ministry decisions. Here are some trends and strategies we have seen on the front lines:
Strategy 1: Communication
- Right now, today, every member of your staff MUST become a member of your communications team. Provide consistent messaging. Set an example choosing to lead guided by faith, not by fear. Through measured decision-making and great communication, we can be a source of calm in the midst of the storm, but don’t let your own opinions diminish real fear and anxiety people may be experiencing.
- Do your best to communicate your updates and plans through multiple avenues. Create an updates page on your website with an encouraging note or video from your pastor, as well as any news. Encourage your staff to share social media posts. Email and text.
- Set expectations. Let everyone know you have a plan and what to expect from that plan. You may be trying out worship services or small groups in brand new formats. Things don’t have to be perfect, and your congregation will hopefully have an extra measure of grace for trying new things, but they will appreciate communication about changes and reassurance that they are being taken care of.
- As far as which specific communication tools to use, we put together a helpful chart comparing the top communication tools and when to use them in various church scenarios. Check out the full post and download the free infographic here: Communication Tools for Churches.
Strategy 2: Connection
- Now that you have laid a solid groundwork for your church, it’s time to go a step deeper and care for people through connection. This is a chance for the church to be proactive and meet real needs for people at a critical time.
- Discover needs. Have your staff and volunteers reach out to members (or even neighbors) and ask how they are and if they need anything. Reach out to health care providers and other caregivers who may need additional support. Create a simple form (maybe in Microsoft Forms, Google Forms, or Survey Monkey) to send out in an email that people can use to let you know they need help due to illness or other reasons. Keep it simple: name, phone number, and an optional box to write any more info. Have staff reach out and talk to people to find out more about their specific needs. You could also set up a dedicated extension on your phone system for people to call in and request care.
- If you are looking for a way to manage care requests, we recorded a step-by-step video series breaking down exactly how to manage care requests using Microsoft tools. Check out the full how-to guide with links to all of the step-by-step videos here: Managing Care Requests in Teams.
- Find volunteers. Create a simple registration form (again, Microsoft Forms, Google Forms, or Survey Monkey are great options) where people can volunteer to help in some way. Have some simple options to denote the kind of help they can provide (pick up groceries, provide childcare, etc.).
- Have a staff member start matching up volunteers with needs and watch God work through his people. Some church management software has functionality available to help with this such as providing email reminders to volunteers.
- We hosted an entire webinar on how Microsoft Teams can help you easily connect with and manage volunteers. Check out the full webinar, Q&A, and free downloadable cheat sheet here: Volunteers and Microsoft Teams.
Strategy 3: Meeting Online
- Acknowledge the awkward. If you’ve ever streamed a church service, you know that worship in this style has its own set of challenges. It can be hard to fully engage in worship in the noise and mess of your own living room, singing along with the TV. There are distractions at home like kids, laundry, and making breakfast. Help communicate that these challenges are expected and ok. Have your worship leader eat a donut between songs or “share a cup of coffee” across the screen! Keep it a little more casual so there’s not such a wide gap between church on the stage and church in the home.
- Create opportunities for engagement and ask for participation. Instead of everyone shaking hands, encourage people to take a minute to comment where they’re watching from. At prayer time, maybe you acknowledge the collective feelings of worry. Go the next step and ask people to comment what their worries are, so that together we can remember God’s sovereignty over all things and His help in times of trouble.
- Have your staff actively engaging with people in the chat during your stream. Designate a few people on staff to watch for prayer or care requests. Have others chatting and answering questions, etc. Be sure to follow up on those requests during the week.
- Be ready to update your format for your audience. Teenagers are unlikely to watch a 45 minute youth group service online, so cut it down to 15 minutes, and offer Zoom groups or watch parties so people can share the experience with a smaller group. For children, consider uploading video clips and discussion starters on your website instead of their normal programming. Email these resources out to parents.
- Be intentional about reminding/encouraging online giving. Most of you probably already have an online giving solution, but now might be a great time to explore all of the features your online giving provider makes available. Many solutions offer text-to-give, mobile apps, and other great features to ensure your remote worshipers can engage in this important part of your worship experience.
We hope that some of these tips are helpful for you as you serve, and we would love to hear what you are doing as you adapt and serve people in these times. If you are looking for more info about Online giving, live streaming, or empowering your staff to work from home, please let us know! It is our passion and our purpose to help churches implement technology effectively and we are here to serve and partner with you. Contact us at [email protected] or call us at 866-393-5046.
Written by: Melody Parlett, Managing Director, Enable Ministry Partners