“The largest church one day will be the online church”. These words came from Elmer Towns while I was sitting in a seminary class back in 2010. While we wrestled with topics like communion, community and baptisms, it was hard for us to grasp just what that may look like. I don’t think Dr. Towns had a pandemic in mind but aren’t we currently seeing the largest church in the world as an online church? Needless to say, the past several weeks have ushered in significant change for church planters. Here are some things that we are finding to be working during this crisis.
Best Practices during COVID 19
- Old-fashioned Phone Calling. This is perhaps the one that that goes against our cultural shift to texting, emailing, and direct messaging. Many planters right now are reporting that phone calls are gaining them traction with their members. In fact, its surprising just how long people are willing and able to talk right now. Building personal relationships outside of texting and emailing is still proving to be a best practice.
- Online Giving. We’ve taught this in our training for years how important it is to establish an online giving option when planting. While many pastors balked at the idea of paying the fees for online giving, now are rushing to figure out just how to do this. For many, the only way to financially give to the church was to “come” to the church. While some “old timers” are still driving to the church to drop off their check, faithfully by the way, many planters are reporting right now that their online giving percentage has increased. In addition, those planters who have created a culture of giving from the beginning have found their giving during this pandemic not as bad as they thought.
- Online Community. Churches have often struggled with getting attenders into small group community. However, with the shift to online small groups, churches have seen more people open to gathering online form the comfort of their own homes. The real unknown is just how much community is occurring through a computer screen.
While these are challenging times for church planters, those with an entrepreneurial passion and flexibility are going to see ways that God is working through this pandemic and adapt. No one ever promised that what we put on paper would be what actually transpired.
Josh Turner is church planting team leader and strategist for the SBC of Virginia