by: Susan Arnold - Missional Hubs
Hello, friends and partners in ministry,
Connections were an important part of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus connected with each of the disciples in a unique way, and was always connected with God. Can you think of ways that Jesus connected with others in ministry? If we take time to think about it; most of what we and our congregations are missing right now are the layers of connections that we have throughout our communities of faith. Over the past week I have started to hear people share this phrase, “I miss seeing, hearing, and being with (fill in the blank with a name).” We can all feel the ache of missing being connected with other people.
I know many of us have had a crash course on how to leverage many forms of technology to help keep people connected to worship, God, small groups, bible studies, prayer groups, ministry teams, etc. In addition, some of us have had an opportunity to use our love for technology to share the Good News in exciting new ways. Many of us have set up web-pages; Facebook pages, Zoom meetings, Instagram accounts, and that only scratches the surface of our technology tools. The world of technology has been flooded with a viral revival. However, I was reminded that not everyone in the congregation I serve or in my community have technology available. A pastor in my missional hub within the Three Rivers District, reminded me that the majority of his congregation has no to low technology capabilities. This brought up a great question- how are we staying connected in low to no technology ways? Or even better, what are some simple, low to no technology opportunities for staying connected as the Body of Christ, as a community, and as a congregation? These two questions started my quest for conversations regarding innovating in low to no technology settings.
I would love to hear/share some of the ways that you are staying connected and offering care with low to no technology resources. I have asked several people, read several blogs, and collected a few ideas over the past two weeks. This communication is a way to share these connection points. Each of these connection points work with any size congregation and require no to low technology capabilities. Thanks again to my missional hub pastor colleague for inspiring me to look beyond technology as a tool to stay connected during this time of social distancing. Also, thank you to a clergy colleague who always asks the ministry question, “Who are we missing?”
Phone Tree Connection:
Churches have had phone tree connections for years. This is where people are grouped and someone is the leader of each phone call group. This leader is responsible for calling and sharing information with the people on their branch of the phone tree. Often this has been used to communicate weather delays, prayer concerns/praises, etc. Many congregations have these in place, but they would be great for all congregations. Sometimes these are organized by groups and the leader is the one that contacts people. For example, Sunday School teachers, UMW president, UMM president, Small Group Leaders, Youth Group, Choir, etc.
Another way that these have been organized is by alphabetical order: Aunt Sally might contact everyone whose last name begins with A-D; Danny might contact everyone whose last name begins with E-J; all the way through the end of the alphabet. This is very common in many churches, and it is easily created. The people who are naturally checking in on the stay at home saints and people that are healing from illness or surgeries are great phone tree leaders.
This can also be accomplished by using online systems such as the ones offered at www.call-em-all.com, www.dialmycalls.com, or www.onecallnow.com. While this requires technology for the organizer, it does not require the congregation to have anything more than a telephone on which to answer the calls. NOTE: We have not researched these systems to learn cost and benefits, but all three offer free trials so that you can see if it will work for you.
Encourage Prayer Connection:
Many congregations have a formal pictorial directory for their congregations.
Others usually have a printed contact list for their congregations. These are good ways to stay connected with each other.
Encourage congregation members to pray daily for the people that are in the directory/on the contact list. This encourages people to pray for each other by name and helps keep them connected to God and each other in prayer.
Extension: they could also call or send a note to people to check on them and let them know they prayed for them. Low technology: would be to use texts/email.
Have someone help review the directory/contact list and divide it up by page. Then, divide the page up into halves and invite two people from that page to pray for their half the people on that page.
(adaptation): Each week during social distancing, pair up people in the directory/contact list with each other as prayer partners. As a prayer partner they would agree to pray for their partner every day during the week, and would call them to check in on them during the week. These prayer assignments would change every week, so that they would get to connect with people they may know well or may be new connections for them. (If you have youth
or children, I would recommend doing this within their age group).
Pass the Peace: Find your name in the directory/contact list. Everyone on that page and the next page, are your neighbors around you. Connect with them by a phone call, card, or note that shares the peace of Christ with them. If you do not know them you have a chance to make a new neighbor.
Remember on any given Sunday you have visitors that might not be in the directory/contact list- so you will want to include them, too.
Encourage Faith Formation Connection:
Several ways to continue to inspire, equip, and encourage everyone in taking next steps in their daily journey with God.
Phone tree which was mentioned already can also be used to send daily or weekly bible verses, 3 study questions, and a prayer. This takes very little time, but is very encouraging.
If people have access to cell phones a daily verse can be texted to people. This way everyone in the congregation is connected through reading and praying the same daily scripture. If they have an email address this can be sent to these, too.
A weekly bible verse can be sent in an encouraging card or in an envelope through the postal service on a weekly basis.
Weekly Worship Liturgy:
On a weekly basis, a worship page or a weekly worship newsletter can be sent out via e-mail or postal service. The order of worship is similar to a Sunday morning bulletin. Except the prayers, sermon/devotional, song lyrics, offering moment are all written out. They can continue to have announcements, prayer requests, weekly challenges, etc. They can still be written in a way that makes them interactive. (Thanks to a dear lay servant, and clergy colleague in the Appalachia District for priming the pump for this idea)
Send out a weekly bible study, Sunday School, or small group study that includes a passage of scripture and a list of questions that would be helpful in diving deeply into the scripture. This can be email/text/ or weekly mail (I am aware of a person who has had to social distance for 2 years due to medical condition – and is reaching 7 states and Mexico from East TN)-So the world is the limit!
Monthly scripture writing plan – there are many of these that can be found on the internet. They are usually thematic (for example fear, Lent, or monthly) and they encourage writing the scripture out and focus on it and how God is speaking into it across your day. This one is low tech in that you need to have access to it, but then it can be printed and mailed out, or emailed.
Weekly Prayer Stations:
On a weekly basis send a set of cards for prayer stations. The Lord’s Prayer and Apostle’s Creed would be great beginning prayer stations. Prayer stations are interactive ways to pray that often include an action or word for people to participate in. There are many prayer stations on the internet that are ready to print and are free. Many require materials such as paper, pencil, markers, crayons, etc.
Encourage Relationship connections:
We can continue our weekly connections in new ways:
Weekly Coffee Call / Lunch Call:
Think about setting a regularly scheduled time to connect with others by catching up over coffee during a phone call. This can be a time to chat and talk about what is happening in life, how you are doing, and pray for each other.
This can be as simple as everyone praying the Lord’s Prayer at the same time every day. This could be done with the Apostle’s Creed, too. Or everyone reading the same scripture at a specific time during the day for a week. These could change on a weekly basis. One church is reading Psalm 91 for the next 91 days as a way to remain connected.
Frequently check in on each other with a morning (evening) call/or text. Something as simple as Good morning/evening. How are things going today? Is there anything I can do to help you today? How can I pray with you?
Daily/Weekly connection challenge:
Write an encouraging card to 1 person a week.
Make an encouraging phone call to 1 person a week.
Have everyone choose a favorite bible story write/type it and send it via email to everyone. If it needs to be mailed through the postal service it could be mailed out on a weekly basis.
If driving is allowed – drive to people’s homes and call them while they look at you through the window of their home. Seeing one another is a reminder that no one is alone (I think this one is especially important when people have limited mobility, or were already a stay at home saint – you may or may not be able to do this for everyone), but is a great way to continue combat loneliness.
Encourage Family/children/youth connections:
Some families and homes may have very little technology or want to limit their children/youth technology usage.
Mail: hand written notes of encouragement are always meaningful for children/youth to receive.
Send a scripture, prayer, or creed for them to read/hear each day during the week.
Bible trivia games, scripture puzzles, bible verse scavenger hunts
Worship packet – including a bible story, coloring page/activity/and prayer.
All of these can be sent weekly via the postal service or email.
Encourage Serving connections:
Listen and look for where God is already at work in the community, neighborhoods, congregation. Then, listen in prayer as to where you could join God in ministry.
Missional Hubs: Check in with your missional hubs and pray together regarding the needs and resources you are seeing in your communities. Support each other in prayer and connect to see how you could serve together without duplicating ministries.
Community prayer exchange: write down names of ministry partners, community, and world prayer needs. Mix them up, and pair community prayer opportunities with congregation members, too. So that we might have people with the last name beginning with A-B praying for local school children, EMS, Fire Station, etc. Send this prayer via postal service mail.
Check in with local school systems. Many are distributing meals while they are practicing social distancing. This is helping students and families have the food that they count on and need.
Send a card to a nursing home resident during the week. This can just say resident of name of nursing home and the nurses will help it get to a person that needs that special touch.
Pick up groceries, medications, and run limited errands for those in the community, neighborhoods, and congregations that cannot.
Thank a first responder, delivery person, grocery, restaurant, convenience store employees.
Smile, speak, wave – as you pass people across the day- Just seeing people is a simple act of love that goes a long way!
Encourage Generous Giving connections:
Be generous in your gratitude regarding the gifts, tithes, and offerings that are given.
Send a thank you card, note, text, email sharing how generous giving is continuing the mission of the church.
Encourage consistent giving – even when they are not physically present by making giving as easy as possible. Send information regarding the giving opportunities. This might be mailing a check, or having one or two persons at the church for a limited number of hours one day a week to receive their gifts and tithes. Consider sending a note that explains these options along with a thank you for the way they are continuing to give generously.
Set up a drop box in a secure location outside the church so that people can leave a check without having to come in contact with others.
Even in low to no technology environments the world still seems to be at the end of our fingertips.
Recently I read an encouraging word that said:
Please resist over functioning. We are in a situation that may last more than a few weeks. It is so tempting to expend all our energy at this very minute trying to find substitutes for all our programs and implement technology (or give up) before we are ready and offer more than we can sustain.
Pace yourself and be calm – seek God’s guidance and leadership regarding how to connect effectively with congregation members and trust that God will lead and direct us in these times. Set your hearts on God and place you hope in the fullness of God’s presence and promises.
I rejoice and give thanks for each of you and God’s ministry within you. Blessed are you who carry the light in these challenging times. Thank you for taking time to read, share, and consider some of the ideas for connecting with people in no to low technology communities, neighborhoods, and congregations. In Jesus name - Amen
With you on the journey,
Rev. Susan Arnold