One of the beloved aspects of the rural Church is relationships. It is very difficult to be anonymous…until now. With the need for social distancing, relationships are harder to maintain and much harder to start. However, you probably have already figured out ways to be in relationship with those you love during this season.
You have learned to use virtual gathering platforms to meet with family for game nights, Bible study, or just to keep in touch. You have also gotten creative about meeting outside. We need to apply the same creativity to building relationships with our neighbors and making disciples.
Making disciples is primarily about relationships. A lot of times we focus on programs and content: Bible study, scripture memorization, service opportunities, etc. Yes, these things facilitate growth as disciples, but even these include aspects of relationship building. Making disciples is about building relationships with Christ and with one another.
How are people gathering in socially distant ways in your community? If you’ve been offering drive-in worship services, consider other drive-in opportunities like a movie or drive in hymn sing.
Virtual Bible study I know is a learning curve for many, but it might be one worth trying. A resource like Right Now Media would provide access to all participants to video based curriculum which can be discussed in a video meeting or social media group.
We’ve been having fun with a backyard Bible study this summer, but as the weather changes we need to figure out what those outdoor opportunities will look like? Will they move inside? Or online? If the local diner is open for business inside, what might it look like to offer Bible study with each household seated at their own table? (Whether at the local diner or in your own space.)
Drive-thru dinners are allowing some churches to continue to feed their communities. Hopefully they are including spiritual food along with the to-go boxes. As cars come through the line ask each household how they’re doing and pray for them. Include an invitation to your virtual or drive in worship service or discipleship opportunities.
Many larger congregations are moving to a house church model for in-person gatherings which include 20 or fewer people. These could probably include as few as 5 people. Really this is getting back to Wesley’s original class and band system as well as the early church model in Acts. Fresh Expressions offers training on this ministry model along with other fresh ideas.
The bottom line is don’t be afraid to get creative, and continue to use your gifts and passions to lead and serve while maintaining social distance. Invite your neighbors to a Facebook watch party of your worship service. You can discuss the message in the comments (or make snarky remarks too). Find ways to have fun making disciples and growing relationships with Jesus in new ways together.
I still maintain since Jesus touched lepers, we can and must do something to make disciples even if we’re wearing masks and keeping our distance. Even if we’re connecting online instead of in person, we must not stop being the Church; building and nurturing relationships with Christ and our neighbors.