At the height of the pandemic, I was looking for multiple ways to connect people with one another and with God at the rural two-point parish I was serving. Like many others, our buildings were closed for months. Younger members were doing a great job of stopping by their grandparents’ homes and sharing online worship via their smartphones, but we needed additional ways to stay in touch. That’s when I started using our Church Calling account to send out short, pre-recorded devotionals and prayers. Church Calling lets you record a message, and then it broadcasts it to the phone numbers you have saved in your account. The calls went to everyone and could even go to voicemail.
As we have moved into a hybrid era of doing church online and in person, we can’t forget that church life has always been hybrid in some ways. Letters, taking communion to people in their homes, phone calls, and even radio have all played important roles in ministry and will continue to do so. To that end, we asked members of the Faith+Lead Lab to share some of the older technology that they use in their communities.
Picking up the phone may not always be obvious in the age of FB messenger and texts. Here’s how some churches got back into the habit of using the phone.
- One congregation uses call-circles to do check-ins with people—not only those who are unable to leave their home but also busy families, who may not get to church as regularly as they want but benefit from feeling connected.
- Another congregation instituted a buddy calling system where two people take turns calling each other regularly.
- At one church the council divided up the list of members and took assignments to call people.
When our buildings remained closed for Palm Sunday and Easter, my spouse and I got to work making colorful at-home worship packets that we mailed out to everyone in the parish. Getting something in the mail that isn’t a bill or junk mail can sometimes be rare. Not every day brings good news in the mail, but some churches have found ways to make that happen more often.
- One congregation has a regular habit of checking the newspaper for milestones in the lives of members—like a high school team winning a game or someone getting on the honor roll. They send out cards to congratulate these folks.
- A leader shared that they send out cards, a newsletter, and a letter from the pastor.
- Many different churches mentioned sending out coloring pages and kits for doing crafts.
Sending mail isn’t the only way to keep people connected with deliveries. At the parish I was serving, a council member and her grandchildren made May Day flower baskets and delivered them across several counties to church members. Here are some other ways congregations have made hand deliveries throughout the pandemic.
- At one church members did cookie exchanges and dropped cookies off at one another’s homes.
- A pastor shared that her church planted pinwheels outside members’ homes for Pentecost (with a note attached that said something about the Holy Spirit blowing where it chooses, wherever we are).
- Another congregation made worship-at-home packets and dropped them off.
Meals, Snacks, and More
Faith communities have all kinds of creative ways that food becomes part of their ministry, even in a time when eating unmasked indoors is not advisable. At the parish I was serving members left bags of home-grown vegetables on porches and made up boxes of groceries to deliver throughout the height of the pandemic. Here are some more ideas that leaders shared in the lab.
- One rural congregation made snack bags and left them with a note for the drivers who come to the grain elevators during harvest.
- Another church hosts a drive-thru breakfast service.
- One community started a little free food pantry outside their building.
How is your congregation staying connected in more traditional ways? Have you revived any older traditions, like sending cards? Join us in the Faith+Lead Learning Lab, our free social network, to discuss this and more.
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