I’m a firm believer that the church innovates in times of crisis. Maybe it’s our realization that we can’t figure something out on our own that changes something in our minds. Regardless of what triggers the fire that lights our collective creativity, let me urge us not to close to the door to the “guest room” as if the visitor has left after this virus ends. Don’t throw away online ministry after all of this is over.
As for the “guest room,” you know what I’m talking about, we all have a place we put guests when they sleep over at our house. We go out the way to make them feel comfortable, adjust our regular schedules, and pay extra attention to the details that will affect them. When their stay is over though, we close the door to that guest room, put the folding bed away, and we settle back into our normal routine.
We don’t have the luxury of doing that this time. Covid-19 has pushed every one of us to lean into an important aspect of current/future ministry. Not being able to meet in our regular ways has pushed us all warp speed ahead into the digital world. I would argue that most of our Instagram feeds, Facebook posts, and the social media live versions of these were minimal at best. Before entering online campus ministry, my social posts were always icing on the cake. It’s probably the same for you. Now, we’re developing plans and putting time towards being even more present in the lives of our students through their phones and the internet.
We cannot give back the ground we will have taken once this pandemic is over. Even if this crisis lasts one more week or six more months, we will be different, our ministries will be different, and our students will have developed new rhythmns. While the “post” virus world may not look exactly like it does today, don’t surrender the progress we’ve made.
My biggest fear is that churches all over North America will “flip the switch” and put their online outreach back into the closet for another day. It’s true that most people will go back to physically meeting, but we cannot forget those that won’t, can’t, or are afraid to join us in person. Those people are important too. In fact, they’ve always been important, but the larger church as a whole didn’t really pay much attention to them.
Here’s what I mean: As an Online Campus Pastor, I had folks sign-up for my online small groups and during our first meeting they would cry. I asked what was going on and they explained that “If you don’t go to church physically, then you’re kinda forgotten. All we have are the televangelists and even then, we’re looked down upon. We just want to be connected to the church.” For these folks, they had been praying that their church would provide some way for them to stay connected digitally and continue their group discipleship. Maybe they had an illness that prevented them from leaving their house (we had people who did), maybe they are elderly and can’t travel or have no way to get around, or maybe they have crippling anxiety. We cannot forget about these people once the virus passes.
So here are my suggestions:
- Think about what you’re doing outside of crisis mode.
- Sure, we’re all in a state of reacting to what’s going on around us, but we need to think a little further down the road than that. How can what you’re doing now be sustained AFTER this is over? It might be less, but please don’t let it be exactly like it was before.
- Think about all of the students you weren’t reaching because they were afraid to come to a physical location.
- If you are intentional, your ministry could explode in effectiveness. I bet you have students in your area that would never consider walking into your youth group. Maybe they’ve had a bad experience? Who knows, but now more than ever is an easy time for them to safely check you out. Speak to them when you’re creating content and don’t forget about them when this goes back to normal. This is a perfect outreach opportunity for the church. Let’s use it the best we can!
How are you processing for “after the virus?”