Think outside the church building

By Eric Thomas
Life as we know it has been put on hold worldwide. Nothing is the same; there are closings, cancellations and social distancing guiding all of our actions. Temporary survival mode is the name of the game.

Due to guidelines and restrictions, churches are having to change how they operate. Though our houses of worship may be temporarily closed due to COVID-19, that hasn’t stopped them from continuing to serve their members; it just temporarily changes how the churches enjoy their togetherness. To sum up, churches are thinking outside the box.

The rise of social media platforms has proven beneficial during this time of social distancing. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok have grown in popularity over the years in connecting individuals and groups. Periscope and Zoom calls have become an increasingly popular venue for small groups and boards. YouTube has been a great venue for sharing videos. During this time, these platforms have become essential for many groups to stay connected during social distancing.

Many of the area churches have active websites and Facebook pages which have become great tools to keep everyone informed. Facebook live has served as a popular way to share sermon messages and devotions and to even help Bible study groups stay active.

One church has even utilized Zoom to hold a hymn sing for those who could take part. Some churches have developed podcasts through Google and Apple to share their sermons with those who tune in. Area pastors have increased their daily connections with their members through phone calls and texting. Able members have even stepped up running errands for those more susceptible within their church, picking up groceries and delivering medications.

Most churches are utilizing their email databases to send out devotions, words of encouragement, scriptures and announcements to keep their members engaged and encouraged and even to send out the weekly bulletin.

Tithes and offerings are vital to the life of the local church to enable those congregations to serve others in the community and worldwide. Members are encouraged to mail their tithes in or contribute securely online, if their church offers, to continue supporting the mission of churches here and worldwide.

People may not be able to gather together in their respective houses of worship this year but, churches are coming to you through electronic media; bringing the message of hope that is Easter. A message that is needed now more than ever.

If your church typically takes part in the service of communion, you are encouraged to use bread or crackers plus grape juice at home. Some churches are encouraging their families to dress up in your Easter best, take a picture and post on Facebook so your church friends can see you during this time of separation. You are encouraged to get “plugged in” this Easter. Whether you are currently connected or are looking for some peace through this storm, this writer encourages you to get connected to a local body of believers.

GOOD FRIDAY SERVICE

During this unusual Lenten season, the Jacksonville Area Conference of Churches is transforming its traditional Good Friday Service to an online Facebook event.

This year, the service will be available on the Conference of Churches Facebook page, premiering on April 10, 2020, at 12 noon.

The online service will have three guest speakers and music selections from area churches, delivering the Good Friday message.

To participate and interact with the the Video Premier, visit facebook.com/ jacksonvilleAreaCC/ or search ‘Jacksonville Illinois Area Conference of Churches.’ The video will also be available any time after the 12 noon premier.

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