Reprinted from Net Results magazine, January-February 2021
It really does look like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – and I’m hopeful it’s not a train barreling down the tracks straight at us! But it does seem like the COVID Crisis, as I’ve come to call it, is on its way to becoming a page in history rather than a threat to our society.
That said, it’s also pretty clear that the lock downs and closures aren’t going away in the next couple of days … or weeks … or even months. That said, it’s going to be important for you and your church to come to grips with the reality and begin making some good plans for the next round of holidays.
- Valentine’s Day
- St. Patrick’s Day
- Mardi Gras
- Mother’s & Father’s Day
- Memorial Day
As I write this, a majority of churches in the US are still not meeting live and in person. And although there is yet a lot of talk amongst pastors about “rights” and the pressures to be back in their buildings, most church buildings remain closed for larger group gatherings. I’m not here to weigh in the merits of in person versus online worship services, but the reality churches are facing is another Easter not-in-building and a whole lot of other holidays as well. The question is, how do we “celebrate” and leverage them for the gospel and for church growth when Valentine’s banquets are out, corned beef and cabbage feasts are a no go, and two of the most leveragable family holidays (Easter and Mother’s Day) are barely recognizable?
The biggest issue seems to be a creativity burn out by many church leaders. We look at what we’ve always done and try to adapt, but let’s be real, most of what we’ve always done isn’t terrible adaptable, so we’re going to have to get creative. Thankfully, there are a lot of creative people out there on the internet, so if you’re willing to hunt, you can find quite a few out-of-the-box things you can adopt and adapt for your particular context. Below are ten ideas that will hopefully inspire you to make the most of where we are rather than lamenting where we wish we were!
- Send a greeting card with a personal note to each family associated with the church.
- Speaking of cards, get your children, youth, or pretty much anyone else who feels the urge to create handmade holiday-specific cards to deliver to members, guests, and/or those who are especially isolated.
- Use a video conferencing app like Zoom to watch a holiday related movie together. Encourage a BYOP (bring your own popcorn) event and host a post-movie conversation afterwards.
- Pool your membership resources and gather forty short video vignettes that reflect on ideas related to Lent. Then schedule them as daily devotions on Facebook, YouTube, on your website, etc.
- Create a holiday themed jigsaw puzzle at JigsawExplorer.com. You can embed the puzzle on your website, share the link via email or social media, or play it using the multi-player option in real time. We especially like doing this with Zoom or other conferencing apps.
- Host an in-car parade in honor of the holiday. The options here are nearly limitless. Make it a public parade and encourage people to decorate their cars (this could be especially fun for St. Patrick’s Day and Easter). You could even offer small prizes for the most creative or best decorated vehicles. Choose a parade route that lends itself to the church’s mission – in other words, you could drive through neighborhoods where the church’s most likely target audience resides. (Be sure to have several cars decorated with the church’s website URL!)In addition, consider leading the parade through neighborhoods where your most isolated church members are.
- Offer porch portraits. Put together a team of talented mobile phone camera photographers and set up appointments for people in your church and in your community. Be sure to get addresses and email addresses from the appointments. Then send out your masked photo team to go house-to-house, remaining outside and maintaining physical distancing, to snap the photos. Of course, it’s especially cost effective to simply provide the image file, but if you can afford it, consider having the images printed and mailed (or dropped off) to the homes. This would be especially meaningful for Mother’s Day and Easter, but consider offering dress-up/costume photos for some of the other holidays.
- Invite members to do one-minute Instagram videos on What [this holiday] Means to Me. Get them to share the links and compile them on the church’s Instagram account. Of course, you needn’t be dependent on any particular social media to do this, but with the current popularity, why not leverage it?!
- For any of the site-specific holidays, such as St. Patrick’s Day (Ireland), Easter (Israel), Mardi Gras (New Orleans), consider taking your congregation or community on a virtual tour. There are plenty of YouTube and Vimeo videos you could tap into, as well as photos and images and artwork galore. In fact, you probably have members who have visited some of these sites who would be willing to share their snapshots and vids. It would be fairly simple to create the tour using any number of free or low cost video creation apps, or you could simply dump all the files into a file folder on your computer and open them up using the Share Screen feature on your conferencing app. BTW, if you happen to have someone in your congregation who’s been to whatever area you’re highlighting, you could ask them to be the virtual tour guide.
- Host a poetry or prose reading event. For instance, for Valentine’s Day, invite people to share their favorite love poem or passage (I’ll bet 1 Corinthians 13 makes it onto that list!).
- Hosting online holiday cooking, recipe sharing, game nights, creating videos of appreciation, doing a virtual escape room/mystery, are just a very few ideas that hopefully will spark your creativity.
I want to wrap this up with an observation and a question. Just last night I was reading a report from the CDC warning the nation that the “new” strain of the Coronavirus that’s just beginning to sweep across the US could take us into some very dark and difficult times. Of course, the vaccine and other measures may blunt the havoc, but again, no one really knows. That said, one of our concerns is that if churches continue to focus on the back to the building hopes, they will continue to miss the opportunities for extending their ministries exponentially in the here-and-now. I’ve been asking this question of late to pastors and church leaders alike: “What if the church and our society could never return to large-group gathers? What if our sanctuaries and auditoriums were forever off limits? If that was the case, what would we have to do as individuals and as churches to continue to worship, to disciple, and to love one another?” What would you do?