Many churches are still navigating service cancellations due to recent government restrictions, discipleship efforts due to quarantine and ministry to vulnerable members in the midst of a pandemic. And, I think we can all agree that those efforts should be first priority (Matthew 28:16-20; Galatians 6:10).
However, if this crisis stretches into the next few weeks and even months (we all pray that does not happen), the economic fallout could and probably will be severe. And, the church should be prepared to meet community as well as church needs (Matthew 5:16).
No doubt, many of you as church leaders have spoken with state, local, and other community leaders about the community needs and how the church can meet them. Some friends around the country have compiled a list from a number of such interactions, and the following are six ways your church can serve your community during this time:
- Contact, Pray for, and Assist Local Officials.Reach out to your mayor, local health officials, and school officials to (1) tell them you are praying for them and (2) ask them how you can help. These officials may tell you that all needs are currently being met. But, if this crisis drags on, the need will intensify, and your help will be needed.
- Call People and Deliver Care Kits.In good times, elderly individuals can go months without human interaction. This is a tragedy at any point, but it is especially problematic now. Why not put a team together to call shut-ins, other church members and even names in the phone book (yes, they still exist!) to offer prayer and help? When you identify a need (especially for an elderly individual), offer to deliver food or other essential items while carefully observing CDC guidelines.
- Assist Public Schools.Title I school districts are particularly vulnerable right now. In other words, these students rely on their school for daily nutrition. Public schools are scrambling to find ways to safely continue these food services, so ask if your church can assist in some way. A quick Google search of Title I schools near you will likely reveal a wealth of ministry opportunities nearby!
- Offer Space. Many churches lack other resources, but space is not one of them. A colleague in Indiana shared a story from one pastor that is assisting a local school by allowing the school to use the church parking lot to distribute food to students. And, this pastor also offered space (again, in conformity with CDC guidelines) for an emergency medical facility if the local hospital is overwhelmed.
- Donate Funds and/or Food to a Food Bank, The Salvation Army or a similar organization.Because kids are out of school and because many workers in the food service, travel and hospitality industries are either being laid off or having their hours cut, food and essentials such as toilet paper are in high demand. So, organize a fundraiser or food drive for a local food bank or similar organization. Make sure you communicate with the food bank or ministry beforehand to ensure compliance with CDC recommendations and to determine which items are most needed. Also, Surge Network has an active Google Doc of COVID-19-related resources and needs with links here. And Dr. Randy Deal has been sending out some superb resources through his Vision Arizona list. You can connect with him at visionarizona.com.
- Provide Resources to Those Experiencing Job Loss or Reduced Hours. Many states have announced programs or measures to assist individuals that have been laid off or have had their hours cut due to the pandemic. AZ DES has a webpage specifically set up for COVID-19 available by clicking here. Also, some churches are specifically raising funds for and distributing assistance to individuals in hard-hit industries. This is a great way to bless your community!
From the early church to the Ebola outbreak, the church has responded to plague and disease with love, hope and help. Now, it’s our turn!
I hope these ideas help you and your church as you serve your community. I would love to hear from you! How is your church serving your community? Please reach out. I will be happy to share links, ideas, and other resources with our list as a resource to bless the Body of Christ in Arizona. We are praying for you and your leadership!
For the Kingdom,
Chris St. John
Arizona Capitol Project