Over the past week, as America has come to grips with the breadth of the coronavirus pandemic, a brand new term has thrust itself into the America vernacular: social distancing. This is the catchphrase employed to attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus and help flatten the curve. In short, everyone needs to stay away from each other and keep to themselves.
But how can you be the church if no one can get together? Social distancing is almost antithetical to the idea of having church. In these strange and unique times, here are four ways you can still be the church in the age of social distancing:
1. Lean into online platforms. Because of the advances in technology, any pastor with an iPhone and a Facebook account can stream a service or even a Bible study online for their parishioners. People live online, now more so than ever. And with major sports events being canceled, there’s even less compelling shows to watch on tv, driving more and more people online. People are existing online for the foreseeable future, so meet them there. More than just Sunday services, find ways to post online multiple times a week to stay in contact with your church. Small groups can even use one of the myriad online meeting options to have a virtual Bible study together.
2. Leverage the phone call. In times of catastrophe, the first impulse is to go and check on the elderly and those in distress in person, but social distancing has eliminated that as a viable option. Go to the next most personal option: a phone call. Much more personal than a text message or an email, phone calls give you a verbal (but not visual) interaction. Make it a goal to call every active member in your church during this time of social distancing, just to check on them and see how you can pray for them. That personal touch will mean the world to them.
3. Listen for signs of distress. Social isolation will have some long-term negative consequences for people. There’s a reason the first thing God declared was ‘not good’ was when Adam was alone (Genesis 2:18). Some people will be fine throughout this ordeal, having an existing network of support to lean on. But for some, social distancing will only reinforce their isolation and create a breeding ground for emotional and mental and spiritual struggles. Be on the lookout for signs of distress and offer help and interaction when possible.
4. Leak hope. The news is doing its job of keeping us abreast of the spreading coronavirus pandemic. Social media is not helping our optimism, as it is communicating even more ways that this could result in the end of the world. Our minds are being flooded with hopelessness right now, so be intentional to focus your hope on Jesus so much and so strongly that it leaks out to those around you. In times of distress, people flock to any type of hope. Be a person of hope, and point people to Jesus.