The global spread of COVID-19 has required ministries to change the way they operate. Many conferences, trainings, meetings, and other in-person gatherings are being canceled. Some churches have stopped meeting face to face. Many ministries are no longer sending missionaries onto campuses, 15 countries have enacted nationwide school closures, and some entire nations have gone into lockdown.
But the mission God has called us to hasn’t changed. Jesus Christ rules with life and peace in a world consumed with fear and death (Col. 3:15). As followers of Jesus we have an opportunity to demonstrate compassion as we care for others and support the guidance of the WHO and your local public health organizations.
In this rapidly changing environment, we need to:
(1) PRAY that God will use this virus to surface a fear of God in people’s hearts that opens them up to ask questions they may never have asked.
(2) PIVOT. Not being able to meet in person does not mean ministry stops. This is a God-ordained moment to lead with vision, understanding, clarity and agility.
(3) GET PRACTICAL. Encourage your leadership teams to think through some ways to spread the Gospel through the digital tools they already have in hand.
Below is a curated list of proven ways that digital tools are being used to minister without being face-to-face. This is a God thing. It is also a moment of opportunity to reach out to people that may be asking questions they have never asked before.
Instead of hosting large conferences and in-person training events, digital can be used to convey the same information and mobilize the same groups at a distance. Rather than sending people out onto campuses or other physical locations, volunteers can be mobilized online.
Small Scale Digital Experiments: Teams of missionaries are trying various ways to use digital strategies for ministry.
- Targeted Ads/Facebook chat: A team in Central Asia is connecting with curious students using Facebook targeted ads and following up with those who are interested using Facebook Messenger.
- Key Volunteers: A team in Central Asia is using Instagram to find key volunteers while confined to their homes during a revolution. They reach out to anyone connected with a university’s accounts who show any signs of being a Christian. Anyone who follows their account back they message to set up meetings.
- Bible stories on Instagram: In Tokyo they are sharing the Gospel in an Instagram campaign and so far have reached 6,000 students in the area who know very little about Christianity.
- Online Quiz: A team in Slovakia is using a fun online quiz to form coaching relationships and share the Gospel.
Digital Mission trips: Instead of meeting people in villages, schools, or community centers, laborers in Singapore and Malaysia have been using social media, websites, or other digital media to reach people.
- Digital Day of Outreach: Learn how to lead a Digital Day of Outreach event to train people how to use social media to share the Gospel.
- Digital Mission Trip – Malaysia: A Digital Mission Trip is like any regular mission trip, where a group of Christians gather to share Christ and make disciples. But instead of meeting the people face-to-face, they’re using social media, websites, and more.
Live Stream Events: Indigitous recently trained several churches in Singapore to live stream their Sunday worship services. Get more info about live streaming here.
You don’t need a large group to make an impact. With digital, one person can make an impact all around the world.
The Mentor Ministry: More online mentors are needed – there are currently over 450 messages waiting to be answered. With online mentoring, anyone can make an impact by simply answering an email. Get more information here.
What would you say to people who are fearful and confused about COVID-19? Here are some ideas about content relevant to the situation that you can use or create to reach an audience searching for answers.
- Laying down one’s privileges for the sake of others and protecting those who are vulnerable. This is who Jesus is; let’s call others to be like this. Many hoard resources and look out for themselves, but we are called to sacrifice and serve.
- Do ad campaigns around hope, peace, etc. This gets around advertising filters many platforms have that don’t allow advertising around social issues or religion.
- Look at articles or content you already have and make small changes to connect them to COVID-19. The issues are the same as they have always been: fear, shame, boredom, is there a God, and even family issues.
- In Ghana, a team put together a simple journey by placing an ad on social media that invited people to sign up for more info on the virus. Those who responded were then offered the chance to learn more about Jesus or connect with an online mentor through chat if they had questions or were feeling anxious.
Here is some content that already exists that you can share to start spiritual conversations.
- Article: Four practical things to do instead of worrying
- Article: Rescue is right around the corner
- Article: Coronavirus: How to deal with anxiety
- Article: The Power of Words: Coronavirus fears – reality or perceived reality?
- Video: Anxiety
- Video: Faith and Fear
Editor’s note: Ken Cochrum is the Vice President of Global Digital Strategies at Cru and is one of the co-founders of Indigitous.