The global spread of COVID-19 has required ministries to change the way they operate. Conferences, trainings, meetings, and other in-person gatherings have been canceled. Churches have stopped meeting face to face, schools and workplaces are closed, and countries are on lockdown. Isolation and social distancing have become the new normal.
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.
Some churches and ministries have long been using digital strategies to share the Gospel, but for many of us, all of this is new and unfamiliar territory. Indigitous has put together this guide to help you find practical ways to continue doing ministry even when you can’t meet face to face.
Indigitous put on two series of webinars in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Even after the pandemic, these webinars about doing ministry and outreach from afar are helpful to any digital strategist.
Ministry From a Distance Webinars
March 25-27, Indigitous held 5 regional “Ministry from a Distance” webinars, each with different content and different panelists but focusing on the same themes: How do we reach people online? How do we disciple people online? How do we do church online?
Digital Outreach Webinars
April 13-23, Indigitous held 4 Digital Outreach webinars, each exploring a different way to do outreach from a distance. The webinars were held on 4 topics: How to start a spiritual conversation using the Jesus Film app, how to have a conversation about Jesus using the GodTools app, how to take steps of faith in community, and how to host a Digital Day of Outreach.
Evangelism from a Distance
God has called us all to the Great Commission. Jesus says, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt 28:19). If we can’t go in person, that means we must find ways to do evangelism from a distance. Here are some tools that will help you as well as some case studies of people like you successfully using those tools.
Tools for evangelism at a distance
Social Media for Missions: An Introductory Guide: Some of the best tools for having evangelistic conversations at a distance are the same tools you are using to have all other conversations at a distance. Mobile Ministry Forum created this guide to help you start using social media to share the Gospel.
Cru Social Media Training: Cru has also created a webpage to help train how to use social media for missions.
GodTools: GodTools is an app available in 80+ languages that helps Christians engage anyone in a conversation about Jesus by providing tools that clearly communicate how someone begins and grows a relationship with God. Though designed for in-person conversations, GodTools can be used as a guide for any of your spiritual conversations that happen at a distance.
EveryStudent.com: EveryStudent is a website designed as a safe place to explore questions about God. Helpful for anyone who has questions about God, not just students, the website has a large collection of topical articles that are easy to share with anyone who is seeking answers. The Make Jesus Findable section on EveryStudent.info also has a variety of ready-to-use resources and tips for using ES content to make Jesus known.
How to Talk About God: How To Talk About God is a training series (email or WhatsApp) to help you gain confidence in starting spiritual conversations.
yesHEis: “Sharing your faith can be difficult. So we’re here to help.” That’s the promise of the yesHEis app, created by CV. The app includes a library of handpicked videos designed for you to share with non-believers. Each video is connected to a Gospel message encouraging your friend to consider a relationship with Jesus. And if your friend responds, CV has teams on standby in 18 countries ready to answer any questions, pray with them, or connect them with a community.
Jesus Film App: One of the most compelling ways for someone to meet Jesus is to see him and hear him in their own language. The Jesus Film App has more than 200 full-length movies, short films, miniseries, and film clips translated into more than 1,600 languages.
VOKE: VOKE is an app that empowers you to grow your faith in Jesus by going deeper with God and others. It helps you ask questions that matter, have real one-on-one conversations at a distance, discover who Jesus is in your life and in the lives of others, and helps you lead others to grow in their faith.
Mission Media U training: Mission Media U is a mentored, online training platform designed to help Christ-followers be more effective in making disciples and establishing churches by using media, story, and innovative technology
Case Studies: Evangelism at a distance
- Asking the Amazing Question on Facebook (Social media, paid ads)
- From suicidal to disciple (Jesus Film, WhatsApp)
- How we used Instagram to start a campus movement (social media)
- Too many students for a ministry (social media)
- Accelerating student ministry with digital (social media)
- A playbook for spiritual conversations on WhatsApp (social media)
- The one man who wanted nothing from Sarah (social media)
- Using Facebook to share Christ (social media)
- How to use social media stories for ministry (social media)
Having tools made for evangelism is nice, but how do you use them? Below are some proven strategies for outreach at a distance along with some case studies of those strategies being put into action.
The Mentor Ministry: Do you have a desire to share the compassion and message of Christ with others without preaching at them? Online mentoring gives you an easy, safe, and anonymous way to learn how to journey with hurting people and to share the Gospel as the Holy Spirit leads. It’s as easy as responding to emails and all online mentors receive training and guidance to help through the process.
Issues I Face: Issues I Face is a website full of stories of real people sharing their struggles, from abuse to addiction to stress and beyond. People suffering from a certain issue can find stories of people who have been through the same thing and then connect with a mentor, which connects to the Mentor Ministry, to talk about their own struggles with that issue.
Digital Outreach: Digital Outreach events are about training Christians to use social media and other tools at their fingertips to start faith conversations and share the Gospel with their friends and family. Though traditionally these Digital Outreach events gathered in person, it’s easy to adapt it to an online event.
Digital Mission Trip: A Digital Mission Trip is in one sense just like any regular mission trip, where a group of Christians gather together to share Christ and make disciples with their friends and strangers. But instead of meeting the people in villages, schools, or community centers, in a DMT you meet them in the virtual world, via social media, websites, or other Internet-based communication media. See this “Digital Mission Trip Guide” and this guide on “Communication in the Digital World.”
Case studies: Outreach strategies
- Encountering God digitally (Digital Outreach)
- How to mentor on a spiritual journey online (Mentor Ministry)
- Online mentor brings pregnant couple to Christ (Mentor Ministry, Issues I Face)
- Make a difference with online mentoring (Mentor Ministry)
- From suicidal to saved (Digital Outreach)
- Reaching my family with a Digital Day of Outreach (Digital Outreach)
Discipleship from a Distance
Once someone prays to receive Christ, that’s only the beginning of a new relationship. The author of Hebrews says, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb 10:24). Here are some ways to continue discipleship even if you can’t meet in person.
Tools for Discipleship at a distance
Discipleship.Space: This platform offers online discipleship lessons to help new believers grow in their new life with Christ. Those who sign up for the courses are matched with an e-coach to guide them through their journey.
Gloo: This personal growth platform allows groups and organizations to thrive so that they can help people and communities flourish. The platform is built to serve Champions — the helpers, leaders, and motivators who work tirelessly to strengthen their people.
VOKE Groups: VOKE was mentioned earlier in this list as an evangelism tool. A new feature called VOKE Groups is designed to help groups grow together, even when they’re apart, by watching and discussing a selection of Gospel-based video series called Adventures.
StartingwithGod.com: This website has a number of email series designed to help new followers of Jesus get more information and grow in their faith. The various series include the Spiritual Starter Kit, Skip the Stress, How To Talk About God, and more.
MissionHub: The MissionHub app helps you be intentional with your everyday relationships by taking the next best step to help others experience God.
Jesus.net courses: Jesus.net has compiled a collection of courses for new believers to continue on their journey and grow in their faith. With courses such as Walk With Jesus, Forgiveness Brings Peace, and more, there is a wide range of curricula that can be experienced individually, in groups, or with an e-coach.
Zoom: Zoom video conferencing software or any of their competitors (Webex, Google Meet) are a great way to keep meeting with the people you used to hang out with in person.
Case studies: Discipleship at a distance
- How I learned to disciple online (Discipleship.Space, social media)
- Mobile ministry in Papua New Guinea (Jesus Film, SD cards, WifiBible)
- Using video chat to create community (Talking Stick)
- Digital as a safe space for spiritual growth (EveryStudent, email, Bible app)
- Bringing online discipleship face to face (EveryStudent)
- Campus ministry, for the first time, with no campus (Zoom meetings)
- How will you connect in a time of self-isolation? (Mission Hub)
Church from a Distance
During this global pandemic, many churches have stopped meeting in person in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the virus. Even if your church can’t meet in person, you can still meet and worship together through live streaming.
Tools for church from a distance
Church Online Platform: This platform, provided by Life.Church, removes the barrier of technology so any church can reach people for Christ through online ministry. See also this blog post about how to get started with using the platform and this blog post about the technical needs for your online church.
Digital tools during the Coronavirus: Kingdom Code falilitated this a crowdsourced index of useful digital communications tools for church leaders, communication teams, and church staff.
Guides for doing church from a distance
How to live stream your church service during COVID-19: This blog post and accompanying webinar give practical steps for live streaming your church service, from knowing your audience to navigating copyright laws, to how to use the equipment.
Live Streaming Guide: This Live Streaming Guide has links to many of the resources you’ll need to get started in live streaming, such as streaming platforms, technical tutorials, A/V tips, and more.
Taking Church Online in a Coronavirus Age: This Gospel Coalition article gives some tips about making the transition from doing church face to face to doing it online.
Running Small Groups online during Coronavirus: This article gives practical tips on how to have good small group meetings while meeting at a distance durin the pandemic.
Nine ways to engage your volunteers while we wait out COVID-19: This article gives suggestions to increase volunteer engagement while you’re unable to meet face to face.