As the Pandemic swept into the United States in March of 2020, so much of how we do life has changed that it’s easy to get caught up in focusing on the changes and harder to see the constants. In a recent social poll, conducted by Barna, four relational stresses were found to have been intensified by the closures and other isolation needs created by COVID-19. All of them were present prior to the pandemic, but the escalation of these issues presents a unique challenge to society as a whole and the church in particular:
- Mental Health issues of Anxiety and Depression are increasing across all age groups. According to the Barna Poll, 42% of adults say anxiety has a negative impact on their most important relationships and 39% of adults say depression has a negative impact on their most important relationships.
- “Loneliness Epidemic“ exists across all ages 18+.
Loneliness is accelerating depression and anxiety as well as drug, alcohol and internet addiction, pornography, and other relational problems.
- Relationships are straining under new pressures.
Marriages are straining. Barna reports that 25% of practicing Christians say that marital problems negatively impact their lives.
- Addictions have deepened.
It’s no surprise that addictions or abuse will only be exaggerated in isolation. Many of the support networks have been unable to meet in person, removing needed support infrastructure.
Bringing hope into the homes of your congregation and community is going to look a bit different than it has in years past because so much less of it can be done in person. How does the church minister well to people they can’t see on a regular basis? The answer to that question will continue to evolve over time, but here are three things that churches have shared with us that they are successfully implementing. Some of these things you are doing as well, but perhaps these ideas can inspire you in how you evolve your ministry programs.
- Redeploy your volunteer teams into care teams. Assign them people to be in touch with weekly. That can be via phone call, a handwritten note, a quick text, or email, but the following are the two most important things that need to happen:
- Regular Connection - Your people need to be cared for on a regular basis—with support they can count on and with a resource to reach out to that isn’t exclusively the ministry staff.
- A mix of communication styles - Start with a phone call so the personal connection is established, and other forms of communication can be discussed (email address, texting, etc.). These are relationship groups, not check-in appointments, so choose volunteers who have a natural ability to connect or mentor people.
- Use the weekly sermon message to acknowledge these realities and give people both practical and biblical support to confront these issues directly. In the age of streaming sermons, these messages can have a much larger reach and impact than ever before. Don’t hesitate to refer to local happenings, but do it in a way that will make sense to a wider audience. The hope of the Gospel has never been needed more by this world, and a digital platform expands the options for Christians and seekers alike to find support when they need it.
Ensure that your small groups are meeting. There are safe ways to do that, and these groups will provide connections on a regular basis that build both support and accountability—two things that are needed more today than ever before.
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