KANSAS CITY – When Tim Juhnke took to the pulpit in front of a much-smaller-than-usual crowd at Faith Community church here on March 15, he had a rubber band around his fingers of his right hand. It was to remind him not to shake hands.
He wasn’t the only Missouri Baptist who needed reminding. Avoiding personal contact and that close fellowship that are usually hallmarks of Missouri Baptist churches were just the first steps many churches took to adapt to the temporary new normal of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many churches from St. Joseph to Sikeston, from Joplin to Hannibal saw attendance drop dramatically as the true scale of the pandemic began to dawn on leadership and members. Beginning March 22, most began following the advice of the Center for Disease Control and canceling in-person gatherings over a certain number to help limit the spread of the disease and “flatten the curve.”
Regardless – as the saying goes – the church is not a building. Just because the body cannot meet together physically for the foreseeable future doesn’t mean that ministry, evangelism and worship have to stop. Directors of missions and pastors from across the state told The Pathway their churches aren’t shutting down; they’re just ministering differently.
Many churches large and small already have setups to stream services online, but even those without a prior arrangement and with limited equipment or technological savvy can broadcast with ease. Some churches are electing to stream as “normal” a service as possible, while others were electing to go with a more informal, fire-side chat feeling. Due to a great many churches flooding the streaming services on Sunday morning, some churches are debating posting their videos later in the day and avoiding the rush.
There are many live streaming options and platforms, but one of the simplest might be Facebook Live. The Missouri Baptist Convention has produced a video tutorial walking churches through the process of setting up a stream step by step. If anyone in the church has a smartphone (or a computer with a webcam) and a Facebook account, it’s possible to live stream a service. That video is available at https://mobaptist.org/dr/coronavirus/.
Other churches suggested physically delivering DVDs to those who might not want to get online to watch a service.
LifeWay has made family and children discipleship and “Sunday School at Home” materials available for free. Those resources are also available at https://mobaptist.org/dr/coronavirus/. Some churches are developing their own family discipleship resources and materials.
Fellowship and Community
Shaking hands with dozens of people on Sunday mornings may not happen in the immediate future, but fellowship and community can still continue. Some churches are dividing membership lists among deacons, elders, and other leaders to ensure everyone stays in contact and needs are met.
Some people may not be able or willing to join a worship service online, some leaders told The Pathway they are intentionally going to make contact with them via good old-fashioned snail mail. Other churches are encouraging families to “adopt” an older church member or a young single and routinely contact them or even include them in their own small gatherings. Some are using Zoom video conferencing to help small groups stay in contact.
Other churches are partnering with schools and other local organizations to ensure no one in the community goes hungry during this time of uncertainty. Still others are offering their facilities as blood donation sites.
It can seem crass to talk about money during this time of crisis, but churches rely on continued giving, just as workers, restaurants and other businesses do. There are many options that allow online giving to churches, including through the Missouri Baptist Foundation and Generosity by LifeWay.
The Missouri Baptist Foundation allows gifts to be made to any Missouri Baptist church. Once church officials have called and added your church’s name to the MBF list, any interested donor can go to www.mbfn.org and make a designation to your specific church.
The Foundation also has an option to give via text. For more information, go to www.mbfn.com. Donors do have the ability to include the cost of the transaction in the total amount they donate.
Generosity – available at www.lifewaygenerosity.com – is available to Missouri Baptist churches with no setup fees, no monthly subscription fees, and no technology or web experience needed. Normal credit card processing fees still apply (2.89% + 30 cents).
LifeWay will set up a custom giving page for churches and post it online, also at no cost. Churches can then share that link with their members.
Gifts can be given to the MBC by calling 1-800-736-6227 ext. 366 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.