August 2020 | Volume 15 | Issue 8 | by Ellen Livingood
Maintain Your Momentum
25 ways to move church missions forward during COVID…and 8 types of people who might do it
No one wants to waste precious time just bemoaning COVID limitations. So how can church missions leaders creatively use this unique period to invigorate their missions programs now and into the future? Here are 25 idea starters.
Before you say, “But everyone is too busy!” consider our list at the end of this article of those who may have extra time and energy right now to harness for missions!
1. Survey your missionaries to see what online technology they need. Underwrite the purchase of software, expanded internet service, and/or subscriptions to video libraries or other resources that they may need. Point them to, or run your own, online training sessions on topics such as how to (a) create/update their website, (b) expand their technical skills for launching/upgrading online worship services, or (c) use software to improve their virtual teamwork.
2. Schedule an online roundtable meeting for all of your missionaries together to let them encourage each other and share how they are using this COVID time for ministry purposes. Pray together.
3. Organize a short online prayer time, perhaps centered on one part of the world. Show a Prayercast video or use Operation World information as prayer fuel. Keep it moving and focused (15-30 minutes) and run it for just two to four weeks, then reevaluate.
4. Launch a special financial project for the medical or humanitarian needs of brothers and sisters in a part of the world hit hard by COVID. Tell stories of what God is doing rather than just report on suffering.
5. Call your missionaries and missionary retirees regularly. Find out how they are doing personally and how their ministry has been impacted. Pray online with them for their requests.
6. Pay for your missionaries to take an online personal-enrichment course to improve some aspect of their service.
7. Call several pastors or leaders of nearby ethnic/immigrant churches to express your concern for them. As appropriate, be transparent about your challenges too. Pray with them. Respond to needs, if you can.
8. Assist immigrant parents, especially those with limited English. If schools are meeting online, provide individual assistance to make sure their children have the required technology and skills. If needed, help set up or staff a free tutoring program.
9. Help immigrants with employment and landlord-relationship services. Offer advice for job searches or assist in writing resumes. If renters are facing eviction, connect them to a free legal clinic or even set up an arbitration service with the goal of serving both landlords and renters.
10. Supply a food bank that serves an immigrant neighborhood.
11. Serve international students in your area. Provide a place for them to quarantine on arrival or offer long-term housing. See if those reaching international students need space for social-distanced, one-on-one and small-group meetings.
13. Put together a creative team to rethink how you will visually present missions in your building when you can finally return. Are there ways to use the ongoing COVID limitations to your benefit. One simple idea: Create masks using a fabric/design from a country where you are partnering.
14. Create “traveling” missions suitcases so families can take virtual trips to countries where your missionaries serve. Stock them with varied learning resources for different ages. Lend out the suitcases with the assurance that all contents are thoroughly disinfected between uses.
15. Develop a creative children’s missions module focused around one of your key global partners. Work with your children’s director to find ways that it can be incorporated into the children’s ministry when children’s programs resume.
16. Offer a one-year, full-time or part-time missions internship to a student who has decided not to start or return to college this fall. Designate some funding to pay a modest salary or help them raise support for the role. Engage them in various missions-related projects in your church.
17. Conduct a phone interview with every person from your church who took a short-term trip last year. What is God doing in their life? What might be their next steps in missions? How could you help?
18. Ask each of your missionaries to send you a five-minute video highlighting COVID opportunities and challenges. Edit as necessary and include in your in-person and streaming service. Post it on your website if security is not an issue. Be sure to offer ways to respond.
19. Assist home schoolers with learning about another culture by setting up several age-based interactive sessions with one of your missionaries.
20. Offer an online missionary storytime. Serialize an online reading of a missionary biography for children.
22. Update your missions policies. Most churches need to dust off and review their missions policies manual, but this task often gets pushed to the back burner. This is a perfect opportunity to take the time for this important updating project.
23. Totally redesign your missions conference. COVID provides a pause button to rethink what missions events might look like when your church settles into a new normal. Engage some of your church’s most creative people in the process, not just those who have run the program in years past. Give them freedom to innovate.
24. Replace an in-person missions trip with a virtual field visit. Work with one of your missionaries to make this an engaging learning experience that will attract even your church members who have Zoom fatigue.
25. Collaborate with a sister church to improve planning, recruiting, training, and debriefing for short-term teams when they resume. Recruit a team comprised of people from both congregations to work virtually on planning for better short-term ministry in the future. Consider how your churches might conduct some team training together.
Discover Untapped Time Resources
Many people in your church may have little margin for the kinds of projects we have listed above. High on that list are most church staff members and parents of younger children. But take another look at your congregation and you will find others who may have more available time than they did previously.
- Former commuters. Much of the workforce (especially those without children) report that they have more discretionary time because they no longer spend hours each week commuting to work.
- Singles. Isolation and boredom have been particularly difficult for singles during COVID. Use them in a task that involves some social interaction, even if it must be virtual.
- Retirees. Many in this category may have previously been involved in some type of volunteer service that is currently suspended. Recruit them for a temporary assignment, especially one with low COVID risk.
- Stranded missionaries. Many global workers have found themselves unable to return to their ministry overseas. Utilize their expertise even if they are hundreds of miles away.
- The unemployed. Use laid-off workers’ sudden availability to benefit missions. Volunteering in your program may even expand their marketable skills.
- Teenagers. With sports and other activities cancelled, why not brainstorm with your church’s teens how they could serve. Work with your youth director to find good matches.
- Your missions intern (see #16 above). Tap into their interests and gifts.
- Neighbors. Many non-Christians recognize the need to serve others in this pandemic. Engaging them in a project could lead to gospel opportunities.
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