Communicating and ministering during a pandemic
The novel coronavirus is spreading, and we each have a responsibility to be prepared. While we should not panic, now is the time for churches and congregations to review or create preparedness plans so that you can communicate and minister during this time.
The decision to suspend worship, even for one Sunday, is a tough one. It’s a hard call to make, especially if your worship, discipleship, and giving systems are primarily dependent upon in-person gatherings. This is also weighty when it comes to basic pastoral care. How might we retain community and connection even if we limit in-person interactions?
Preaching, teaching, and meeting online
Stream worship, preaching, and teaching through social media and/or your church website. Encourage people to engage with your services this way. Have someone dedicated to monitoring the live chat to encourage further connection.
- Video series with step by step instructions on going FB Live with Dr. Jonathan Smith and Mr. Cameron Helwege: Episode 1: Lives Stream on a Budget | Instructions for using software to Live stream to Facebook (More episodes coming each day this week!)
Episode 2: Meetings & Ministry in a Virtual World
- Taking Your Worship Online: A guide for beginners and everyone elsePodcast: Becoming a Virtual Church with Rev. Ben Gosden & Molly Carlson
- Creating Live-streamed Worship in 3 Days
- Use Facebook Live to stream your church events
- Facebook Live tutorial
- Free coaching from Georgia UM Commission: If your church is exploring digital avenues and in need of some guidance, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations made toward this free service will go directly to support their work with students.
- Production tips for video
- What video hosting services should your church use?
- YouTube Basics: How to upload a video
Instead of meeting for study or even committee work in person, try a conference call or video call. Along with email, there are also ways you can send out group messages.
- Video/online resources: Google Chat, Zoom, and Skype are just some of the *free* options out there you can try. (Zoom is free for calls under 40 minutes.)
- Audio Only Conference call-in platform: Free Conference Call
- Mass Messaging Platforms: Remind101, GroupMe
- Email platforms: MailChimp, Constant Contact
Adapted from the Greater Northwest Area of the UMC
The local church is a place where people connect — with God, with each other and in the community. People naturally turn to the church in times of a crisis seeking meaning, peace, and healing. A church that is prepared can help mitigate the emotional and spiritual impact in a time of crisis and uncertainty and may be a place of hospitality and sanctuary in times of critical need. Being proactive can help lessen those feelings of confusion, loneliness, and isolation that are so common during and after disasters. Call, visit, reach out to family members to make contact with church members. Notify local authorities if there is a call for concern, giving all pertinent details.
Here are a few ways to be Alive Together in Witness in our communities:
- Offer to pick up groceries for an older adult in your congregation or neighborhood. They may have anxiety or fear about being in public.
- Are you able to watch someone’s out-of-school child? Offer to help provide care for children whose parents need to work.
- Who in your congregation or community rely on school or other programs for meals or other food assistance that may be on hiatus? How can you offer to help?
There are many, many more ways we can continue to be safe and still care for others. Reach out via social media, text, or by phone and see how you can be a light for Christ.
A very practical concern for churches is how closure might affect this specific spiritual discipline. This is a great time to send reminders about all the ways your church can help disciples practice generosity: online giving, gifts by mail, stock donations, legacy gifts, text-to-give, etc. This is an ideal time to underscore that giving is not payment for services rendered. It is a Christian practice; an act of faith and devotion to God. How might you celebrate those who step out in faith and mail-in additional gifts, who text to give to the special offering for the Nashville tornado relief, or who become first-time digital givers to the church?
- Ask your members to see if their banks offer a “BillPay” option. They can set up the church as a regular payment they make, and the bank generates an electronic check and sends it via USPS (United States Postal Service).
United Methodist Book of Worship: The United Methodist Publishing House (UMPH) is granting permission to use and post online selected contents from the United Methodist Book of Worship (BOW). Read more here.
One License: One License is offering free licensing through April 15. They license hundred of music publishers, typically hymnals, choral arrangements and other traditional music, including our United Methodist Hymnal. You must have a Podcast / Streaming License to stream worship services that include music from their list of publishers. You can sign up for a new license or, if you already have an Annual Reprint License (only to print/project music or lyrics), you can add the Podcast / Streaming License to your account. Read more here.
CCLI: Although CCLI isn't offering any free services at this time, they are important to note here because they provide licensing for most contemporary music publishers who produce what you hear on the radio. You must have a Streaming License to stream worship services that include music from their list of publishers. Visit them here.
Outreach: Beginning March 20, Outreach Digital is offering a free solution for streaming your church services online, including chat, notes, and the Bible. This allows you to stream from your church's website without needing to use Facebook. Read more here.
Amplify Media: Amplify is a streaming service from UMPH/Cokesbury that offers resources for all ages. They offer a free 14--day trial for their full library, but everyone can view a limited library of free resources right now. Included are Adam Hamilton's Unafraid, Deep Blue Spring 2020, Adult Bible Studies Spring 2020 and selections from their Lent 2020 catalog. Read more here.
Cokesbury: Cokesbury Kids is offering free, live, online, at-home worship services for the whole family. Gather your family around the computer for a child-centered time of singing, praying and listening. Register here.
General Online Resources
Google: Google is offering the enterprise version to G Suite and G Suite for Education users. This includes free access to advanced Hangouts Meet video-conferencing capabilities like meetings with up to 250 participants per call and live streaming for up to 100,000 viewers within a domain. Read more here.
Microsoft: Microsoft is offering Teams for free. Teams is a collaboration tool with chat, video calling, personal and team file storage, and more. Read more here.
Slack: Slack is a collaboration app that already has a free version, but they are now offering webinars and one-on-one consultations to help you navigate your own transition to a remote workforce. Read more here.
Other helpful links
Parts adapted from information from the North Georgia Conference and the Western North Carolina Conference.