As states across the United States begin to issue “shelter in place” orders for residents, many find themselves stuck at home and unable to serve their church members and community in the usual ways. However, we are still called to minister to others.
Remember, the church is not a building; it’s a people. When fleeing persecution, the early church took the gospel to new regions out of necessity. So, too, we must now take the gospel message to the digital mission field and spread our message of hope and wholeness when it is needed most.
Digital tools can be used in many ways to extend the church experience beyond the building and help those in your community who are struggling financially, spiritually, and emotionally. God’s kingdom is 24/7, and now is the time to embrace digital evangelism and discipleship for growing and sustaining His church.
Here are 10 easy ways you can serve your community using digital tools during COVID-19:
- Commit to checking on five friends. Many people are feeling lonely and isolated. Now is the time to commit to regularly checking in on others. Make a list of friends and family, but also include people who may not be well connected with others. Use this opportunity to reach out to them to build meaningful relationships. Use the technology that works best for you and the person you’re reaching out to. For example, an elderly person may prefer a phone call, while a younger person might prefer a text or message on social media. Set up times to video-call people through FaceTime or Zoom to connect with them face to face. Most important, ask a lot of questions, listen to their needs, provide encouragement, and offer to pray with them.
- Use applications (apps) to help those in need. Many people have lost their jobs or have been sent home without pay for the duration of the pandemic. If you are a financially stable individual with a steady income, you can help those going through a financial crisis by sending money via apps like Cash App or PayPal. You can also order groceries online to be delivered to a family or person in need.
- Buy gift cards for those in need and support local small businesses when possible. Purchase online gift cards from local businesses and send them to someone who needs a blessing. This will not only lift the person’s spirits but also help a local business that may be struggling.
- Order food for delivery. Whether it is for a medical professional working at the front lines or for an elderly neighbor in need, this is an easy way to bless someone through meeting a basic need.
- Leverage your digital influence to let friends and neighbors know you are available to help. Use your social media profiles to offer your help to those within your sphere of digital influence. Offer to babysit a medical professional’s child while schools and daycares are closed; tutor a young person via video chat; take someone grocery shopping, or pick up and deliver groceries. If you prefer to be more discreet, message people directly (phone, text, email, and so on) to see what kind of help they need.
- Pay attention to cries for help online. If we use our sphere of digital influence to stay connected to our friends and community, we can be there when people need us by simply paying attention and taking action. Go online with purpose, not just for amusement and to pass the time. By being intentional, we can make a meaningful and measurable difference in people's lives. Pay attention to what your contacts are posting online and find meaningful ways to respond.
- Share positivity. How is God influencing your life? What is giving you comfort in this time of uncertainty? How have you been blessed? In this time of physical distancing, it's more important than ever to find ways to share our message of hope and wholeness through our digital influence. Many people feel fearful, isolated, and discouraged. They may be wondering what this all means and open to learning about God. Share your testimony online to encourage and uplift others. Witnessing about the good that God is working in our lives affirms our faith as well.
- Use your social influence to advocate for causes or share helpful information. If you have at-risk family members at home, you may not be able to help out at the local drive-through food pantry, but you can let others (who can leave their home) know that the pantry needs extra volunteers. By advocating for causes, you are still doing good and helping your community, even if you can’t be physically present. Also, share relevant information (from credible sources) such as closings, health tips, news updates, and resources for financial assistance.
- Engage in digital door knocking. You don’t have to knock on a stranger’s door to share your faith, nor do you have to create the content. Canvassers are not the authors of the books they sell. The burden of content creation is not for all of us. You can share spiritual content on your social media profiles or through messaging and email. It can be anything (picture, text, video, blog, sermon, and so on) — just be sure to include with it a personalized message about how it impacted you. Your friends and followers can scroll past it or choose to engage when it’s convenient for them. For people stuck at home with time on their hands, social media may be their main source of entertainment and connection. This creates opportunities for us to share and reach people everywhere.
- Create opportunities for prayer online. Even the skeptical may long for someone to care enough to pray for them personally. Social media is a powerful tool for soliciting prayer requests and following up on those requests. Prayer can be just one “Like” comment or message away. Online communication lowers the barrier to asking, making it easy for people to reach out when they may be reluctant to do so face to face.
The original version of this post appeared on the Digital Evangelism blog of the North American Division Social Media and Big Data Services site, sdadata.org.