What if the thing most remembered about 2020 was the way that the church responded? What if our churches became more famous for love, both internally and externally? After all, love — for God, for one another, for neighbors, and even for enemies — is the mark by which Jesus’ followers are to be known by the world around us (Matt. 5:43-48; Mark 12:30-31; John 13:35; etc.)
One of the consistent truths about love is that it moves us toward people. It’s unimaginable to think we could love someone, if we never pursue them; even more unfathomable to say we love someone if we pull away from them. One of the goals of Christians in a season of quarantine and increased isolation for everyone in society, is to figure out how to move toward others — even when we cannot be within six feet of them.
We cannot overstate how imperative this is today in every city where we’re on mission, and even in many church families across the US. And it’s going to be even more imperative in the coming weeks and months. “This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is going to be a very bad two, and maybe three weeks. This is going to be three weeks like we’ve never seen before,” President Trump said at a White House press conference Tuesday, March 31. It’s hard to think that any of us can avoid personal impact.
The aim of this series is to help you know how to love both believers and not-yet-believers, simply through the practical act of reaching out. We’ll cover both caring for the family of God and sharing hope with not-yet-believing neighbors. Interestingly though, because it’s Jesus’ love that drives us to both “care and share,” reaching out to believers and not-yet-believers might look similar in this uncertain time.
Prioritizing Care in the Family of God
The family of God has been and will be deeply affected by COVID-19. They need care; people are increasingly desperate for someone to listen to their fears and concerns. Whether they express it or not, many are hungry for someone to pray with them. One member of a missional community recently sent a message to the others following a Zoom call, “I don’t think I realized last night how much I needed a group gathering with your faces… Thanks for gathering friends.” She’s not alone! Christians need each other — to mourn, listen, carry burdens, speak truth, and even laugh together and remind each other of joy — in this season maybe more than ever (Rom. 12:15; Gal. 6:2; Eph. 4:15; etc.).
Amidst all the things that feel urgent, and within the cacophony of info that is bombarding us from every corner of the internet, and within the urge to be busy and productive, the call of elders’ is still “shepherd the flock of God among you” (even when you can’t be physically among them! 1 Pet. 5:2). The charge to every Christian is still to use the gifts God gave you to build up the body — “that the members may have the same care for one another.” (even when members of each body are sequestered to their own homes! 1 Cor. 12:25).
How Might You Care Well for the Church Family?
There are many ways to care for the believers in our body, but here are three common — nearly universal — principles to consider:
- Leaders can equip church staff and volunteers whose time can be redeployed toward care and discipleship. Whether staff members whose roles need clarity in a digital ministry strategy, or group leaders who need to be equipped with new strategies for online discipleship, our churches are armies ready to serve the vision and strategy of discipleship. As leaders equip and deploy people, and build up the body to make and mature disciples, we care for our church families well.
- Leaders can intentionally call church members into digital community and mission, who have been “on the fringes,” too busy, or otherwise disconnected. Most excuses against involvement have been stripped away over the past month — people may still have full schedules, but everyone is at home, every night of the week now! Several churches are starting “open groups,” to provide meaningful connection and small group discipleship to church members and others who aren’t in groups. With set meeting times & publicly accessible links to video calls, we can care well for those who are feeling an urgency for connection that they haven’t felt in years.
- Most importantly, leaders can (and must!) establish a care plan for each member to receive a personal touch, every week. In most cases this will need to be decentralized through your groups, as church leaders charge MC leaders and others to Zoom, call, text, email, and otherwise check-in. Let’s prioritize the creation of ways for our flocks to be well-shepherded — known and cared for, communicated with, and connected. Then we can trust that we’re caring for them well.
Sample Family Care Checklist
- Audit your church member list to see how each person is connected
- Identify who is responsible for calling whom (e.g. MC leadership team of 4 each have 4 people)
- Equip leader for check-in calls, with tools like those on this and the next page
- Create a tool to track progress for accountability (e.g. Google Sheet for elders to reference)
- Respond to needs and continue in prayer
- Ensure that teaching, sermons, resources, etc. address the heart in specific ways
What Might a “Care Call” Look Like? We’ll take a look at that in our next post.
How do we make disciples during a global health crisis?
–> Join the online community, ask questions, and hear responses from seasoned practitioners.
–> Take a look at the resources we’ve curated to help you as a disciple-making leader in this unique moment.