In the New Testament, we get a clear view of how the early Christians interacted with and cared for each other. In Acts 2:42, 44-47, we read that the believers
. . . devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers . . . And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Does this not sound like the type of church that would bring people in? Does this not sound like the type of church to which you would like to belong? Yet when we think of how our churches operate today, do we do a good job of imitating the example set by the Early Church?
In the 2017-18 Global Church Member Survey, members were asked to respond to the statement, “Other people in my church care about me.” While four in five (80%) of respondents agreed with that statement, only 26% of that number strongly agreed. Sadly, 15% admitted that they were not sure if other people in their church cared about them, and a small percentage (6%) disagreed to one extent or another. While it is encouraging that many members felt cared for, this poses the question, “Why did some members not feel this way?”
When asked about their personal involvement with other members in their church or in helping others grow, members reported a variety of different activities. Approximately a quarter (24%) of survey participants shared that they ate a meal with members of the church (other than their family) once a week or more. Another 12% shared a meal with other members almost every week, and 15% did so once a month or so. However, 19% of members reported that in the last 12 months, they had only shared a meal with other church members once or twice, while 10% shared that they had never done so!
Taking their involvement one step deeper, members were asked how often in the last 12 months they had helped another church member to grow spiritually. Over a quarter (28%) of respondents were involved weekly with such spiritually-growing activities. Another 14% shared that they were involved in helping others grow spiritually almost every week. Unfortunately, 22% of members reported that in the last twelve months, they had only been involved with such experiences once or twice, and 14% had never done so.
During this global COVID-19 pandemic, it can be even harder to connect with and to care for those around us. The threat of the virus keeps many at home and away from others, which can be extremely isolating. While it may feel too difficult to engage in-person with other members, this is the perfect time to find alternate methods of engaging.
If you are looking for some alternative ways to reach out and be involved with other church members during this difficult time, here are some creative ideas to build community and social ties–even in the midst of a pandemic:
- Schedule a “get together” with another member via Zoom or Google Meet. This is a great way to connect and see others face to face. Connecting in this way also requires you to put away other distractions–just as you would if you were in person–and focus completely on someone else.
- Call a church member to check-in. Many times, when we call others, it is with a specific purpose in mind. However, those who feel really lonely right now would no doubt love just to chat. Consider those who might be most lonely in your congregation and give them a call just to say “hi.”
- Have a “physically distanced” meal together. While it may be a challenge due to the cooling weather in many geographic regions at this time of the year, schedule a meal with a friend (or family) where you can sit six feet apart–be it on separate picnic blankets at a park, on the trunk of your car, etc. This is a great way to chat and share a meal together, but still keep everyone safe.
- Offer to help someone who may be struggling. Many people are having a hard time meeting their family’s (or their own) physical needs right now. Offer to take a meal to someone who is working overtime at the hospital, babysit for someone who is trying to work from home, sit with a child during a remote learning class, or contribute to someone’s financial deficit. While all of these may seem like small ways of helping, they can make a big difference in boosting morale and showing the love of Jesus to others.
Let us remember that Jesus said: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35 KJV).
What can YOU do to reach out and minister to those in your church? Share your ideas with your church and friends!
Createdin collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.
Published by ASTR