Dr. Seuss invites us to open our minds to new possibilities when he says,
“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.”
Since March, our way of ‘doing church’ has changed, and having talked with several pastors and congregational leaders, I am finding out that while most of the congregations continue having virtual worship services as well as other activities, many people are longing to return to in-person meetings. I understand that; I miss them, too. People long for the sense of community that churches provide, and many are already experiencing virtual fatigue.
How can the congregational leaders continue serving their church members and their communities during this challenging time? In looking for an answer, the book of Ecclesiastes comes to my mind…
“There is an appointed time for everything… A time to tear down and a time to build up, a time to weep and a time to laugh… A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing….”
What time is it now for us?
This is a time to be creative and bold; to start new things that we have never before thought of using the human, financial, and technological resources at our disposal.
For example, in addition to virtual worship, classes and fellowship gatherings, some congregations like First Christian Church of Iowa City held Vacation Bible School via video conferencing. Regions like Central Rocky Mountain will host virtual summer campfires. Leaders, teachers, counselors, and volunteers have worked intensively to provide hard copies and online materials, classes, devotionals, worship, community, and fun activities to their congregational youth.
This is a time to enhance our leadership and relationships to care for each other.
Iglesia Cristiana La Roca in Dallas, Texas, has started small groups called “Casas de Paz” (Peace Houses) where leaders and assistants are trained weekly to meet virtually with groups to pray, hold Bible classes, and gather in fellowship. Members of First Christian Church in Glendora, California, care for each other through continuous email, snail mail, texting, and phone calls. Other congregations have established funds to assist those who need help with buying groceries or paying utility bills.
This is a time to serve the community.
When several feeding ministries closed due to lack of funds or volunteers, congregations such as Community Worship Center in Gardena, California, began providing brown bag lunches to people in need. Urban Sanctuary, in San Jose, California, started delivering meals to the community of Recovery Café San Jose, a healing ministry for those who deal with homelessness and addiction.
This is a time to work in partnership.
First Christian Church of Portland, Oregon, has strengthened its food ministry to raise human and financial resources. Besides serving daily meals at its facility, volunteers and staff work in partnership with the Oregon Food Bank to deliver grocery boxes to the population’s most vulnerable.
This is a time to reflect on the vision of the congregation.
Are we doing what God has called us to do in this community? Has our neighborhood changed? Do we need to change? If so, how? What do we need to do differently to stay relevant; to connect with our neighbors? What are the needs of our community? What resources can we offer? Do we need to partner with the local authorities, schools, or other public or not-for-profit organizations to serve the needs of our neighbors?
This is a time to listen to God and to listen to our community.
As the prophet Isaiah reminds us in verse 49:18a, “Lift up your eyes and look around….” Are we able to lift up our eyes and listen to God? Can we look around to see how we might serve our brothers and sisters when our sense of community has been disrupted? Because of the pandemic, many people are feeling discouraged and vulnerable due to our current social and economic crisis. This is why your mission and ministry have never been needed more than they are right now.
If your congregation wants to talk about reviewing its vision, ministry or financial and building issues, please contact your Building and Capital Services Advisor to have an Initial Consultation at no cost.
This is a time for the church to bring hope, comfort, and reconciliation to “those who mourn…and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”
“Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try.”
For a printable handout of these suggestions, click here.
Rev. Rosario Ibarra provides congregations with culturally relevant strategic planning, building planning, capital fundraising, and loan and investment services. Her fiscal expertise is geared toward meeting congregational building planning and funding needs, for both Spanish and English-speaking congregations. Rosario grew up in Lima, Peru, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. She went on to receive a Master of Divinity degree from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California and work in the fields of public relations and finance. Rosario lives in Los Angeles, CA, serving congregations in the western United States (including Hawaii and Alaska).
For 137 years, DCEF has offered mission-driven building and capital planning services to congregations and organizations of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. Together with our investors and partners, we are Disciples helping Disciples.