Creating Community While Physical Distancing
When the coronavirus pandemic began in North America, our attention first turned to providing services online in a quality way. Now that most churches across the United States and Canada are forced to conduct worship in a new way—and we all are beginning to realize that this is not a short-term adjustment—churches need to think about more than just the Sunday worship services. While simply doing Sunday-only content online could suffice for a few weeks, providing opportunities for community is becoming even more vital as we’re all dealing with isolation.
So when we’re told to practice physical distancing, how can we create and foster a community environment online? Here are some ways we can encourage our people to engage not just vertically (with the pastors and leadership preaching to the congregants), but also horizontally (amongst themselves).
1. Facebook Groups
Your Facebook page is a great place to broadcast a message, but groups are the better option when trying to create community. Create different groups based on interests, life-stage, or other demographics. You can limit some groups to be church members-only for more private or sensitive conversations. But you can also create some groups that allow anyone to join from your community. We’re all looking for community, so use a group as an outreach tool, too.
2. Video Calls
Zoom and other video conferencing platforms have exploded in recent weeks because we’re all forced to be distant from each other. Using a video conferencing service, you could hold a prayer meeting, small group discussion, post-worship conversation, youth group, mid-week meetup, and a host of other options. People love to jump on a video call because it feels more real. Rather than staring at someone’s Facebook profile picture from eight months ago, you can all see each other in real-time—having real, meaningful conversation almost like you were all in the same room together.
3. Facebook Live
On your Facebook page, or in some of your groups, you could host a Facebook Live. While this tends to be more vertical conversation than horizontal, if it’s done right, it can still create great conversation and foster community with people. Conducting a Facebook Live is simply starting a video conversation. Earlier this week, the staff at my church did a Facebook Live, and we just talked with each other for 30 minutes. Members of the church commented and asked questions, and we then incorporated those things into our discussion.
4. Small Groups
If your church already has a system for small groups, keep them going! And if small groups are something your church hasn’t quite got around to yet, now is a great time to start. A small group is a way to break up the church into smaller segments, creating deeper relationships and better connections with each other and the church. And because everyone is now sitting at home, bored and alone, now is an excellent time to roll out a new small group system for your church. Create groups that meet on different nights of the week, study different subjects or books, live in different areas of the community, or are in different stages of life—then watch these groups come to life. Find a few people willing to host a Zoom call and facilitate discussion. Then create a list on your website with options to join.
5. Encourage Old-Tech
While the majority of people in your church have adequate access to the internet, there may be some people who don’t have access to or choose not to have internet in their homes. Others might be homebound, ill, in a long-term care facility, or have other life situations where community is far harder to come by. Encourage members of your congregation to pick up the phone, craft a card, or write a letter to these members of your congregation. You can securely post a list of people who need this old-fashioned outreach on your church website or in a private Facebook group, or you could directly email it to members of your church.
What has your church done to create community while distancing? I’d love to hear about it! Add a comment below.