Virtual Pastoring in a Multi-Generational Rural Church
By Dr. Danny Davis
Well, our world turned upside down! The last couple of months have been a whirlwind of discernment and decisions. Thankfully I am not walking through this alone. I have a wonderful small team of elders helping me pray and do what is best for our congregation.
Not being able to gather on Sundays has reminded me of Paul’s heartfelt words to the Philippians: “God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8). As a pastor, I miss my people and want to see them again.
I pastor a small, rural, multi-generational church. The oldest member is 89 and the youngest is four. Some of them have the internet, some don’t. Some have flip phones, while others have iPhones. Some are connected to Facebook (a surprising number actually), but many do not (and will not connect even if they could).
While other churches were talking about “going online” like it was some kind of easy thing, we were wondering how to shepherd the digitally connected and unconnected. Here is what we’ve decided to do.
A Weekly Paper Newsletter. Each Sunday I write a short devotional and outline our plan for the next week. I print them. I print address labels. Then I put everything on a table in the church office. On Monday a team member comes and stuffs, labels, and stamps the envelopes then drops them at the drive-thru post box.
A Weekly Phone Call from an Elder. We’ve taken our church member directory, divided it into thirds, and assigned each third to an elder. On Sunday afternoons, the elders make phone calls, check on our people, listen for prayer requests, answer questions, and generally be a voice of positivity.
A Weekly Conference Call. We have subscribed to a conference call service to help us gather together. On Wednesday evenings (starting March 25, 2020) our folks can dial in on any phone. I will teach a short lesson from Scripture, take prayer requests, and have a time of prayer.
A Daily Encouraging Text. Our church already used a texting service to make announcements and keep people up-to-date. Each day a text with Scriptural encouragement is sent to those in our database.
A Weekly Virtual Gathering. My church already live-streamed our Sunday gatherings on Facebook live. We are expanding that to other platforms that do not require people to have an FB account to watch. The videos of the services are posted on our Youtube channel as always.
This strategy is in its infancy and we will make changes along the way. However, I believe we are doing our best to shepherd people in the most unusual circumstances.