The last few months have been a whirlwind for us all. As the novel coronavirus has ravaged the world, our communities have been deeply impacted. Shared experiences range from emotional stress and spiritual discouragement to physical illness.
During this unprecedented and challenging time, our churches have come together with innovation and creativity. “Ministry is actually multiplying right now in this environment,” said Greg Hoenes, SCC west region director. Many of our churches quickly sought to provide for worship opportunities, as soon as the first Sabbath after stay-at-home orders were issued.
As pastors were working to facilitate digital worship opportunities for their members, one pastor saw a great need. Long Beach Pastor Pono Lopez noticed the need for a fast, quality solution at his own church. He quickly created a livestreaming set-up to enable his church to continue to worship without interruption. But he didn't stop there; he created a guide to a simple low-cost livestreaming set-up that can be found here.
We celebrate these creative solutions. And the ministry of our churches goes beyond livestreamed worship services—it also includes personal chat groups and virtual discussion spaces.
Many SCC churches are fostering community in virtual safe spaces. Life Groups had been a core ministry at Kalēo church long before this pandemic—and that hasn’t changed, even with the rapid changes and disruptions brought about by this crisis. North Hills church hosts a Facebook group that allows for the community and fellowship that is needed now more than ever. Pasadena church uses the video conferencing platform Jitsi to facilitate Bible study classes, small group meetings, and young adult discussion groups.
What began as an idea to remain connected with the littlest ones in the congregation has grown into an interactive opportunity with staying power. When stay-at-home practices were gaining traction in early March, Linda Biswas, community engagement pastor at Vallejo Drive church, began to toss around the idea of reading stories to the kids online.
In mid-March, Biswas started leading a daily story time on Facebook live, where kids ages 1 to 12 could tune in to the Vallejo Drive Facebook page to hear stories of Adventist missionaries.
Storytime is one of the many ways Vallejo Drive church has remained connected with their youngest members. Their innovative Kids Connection program, highlighted on p. 53 of the April issue of the Recorder, has gone virtual, complete with printables for kids to engage with at home. Kids can also participate in kid-2-kid conversations on Sundays. Additionally, Parents Connection, a time of fellowship for parents that launched in February, has also since moved online. “What better way to connect with your community than by sharing the love and hope of Jesus during a crisis,” said Biswas.
Many churches have gone above and beyond to encourage members in their day-to-day experience. The Lancaster church, for example, created Spotify playlists with inspirational music to lift the spirits of its members. Churches like Downey, Eastmont, and El Sereno are taking this opportunity to share daily inspirational video messages on Facebook. Journey church pastor Adam Hicks and his wife, Cassie, host a weekly book study on YouTube. Simi Valley church pastor Phil White creates short daily inspirational podcasts to help his members through this challenging time.
Jillian Lutes, youth pastor at West Covina Hills church, created the blog “Meanwhile, Life Goes On,” based on her own recent experience with social distancing while she recovered from a vocal cord infection—months before the term social distancing became known as it is today.
Maintaining the blog soon became part of a larger strategy under the direction of Rogelio Paquini, senior pastor at West Covina Hills church, to stay connected with members on a daily basis. Other means include streaming worship services, meeting via Zoom, and praying and studying through Facebook Live.
“Be patient but diligent as you learn the different modes of digital communication,” said Lutes. “You will make mistakes along the way, and you won’t be proud of everything you produce; but it’s important to keep at it and grow.”
These are just a few of the ways the SCC team has met this situation with new and relevant methods of doing ministry. Our pastors continue to innovate and seek creative ways to meet the needs of their communities during this crisis.
We look forward to the positive lasting changes we will experience after this season is over. “I don’t think we’ll be the same church when we come out of this,” commented Elder John Cress, SCC executive secretary and ministerial director. “We’ll be a closer church.”