Dallas Congregation Harnesses Technology Amid COVID-19
By Carl Stagner
As local, state, and national authorities have increased restrictions on public gatherings to “flatten the curve” of the coronavirus outbreak, churches across the United States and Canada have been left scrambling. Thankfully, trusted partners like Faithlife have offered solutions, including guidance for “taking your church online” on short notice. One example of a congregation harnessing technology amid COVID-19 is New Vida Church of God in Dallas, Texas. The demographically diverse family of faith may be scattered across the city, but they simply will not allow a little distance to keep them apart.
“When we received the news that our gathering sizes were going to be limited, we used Zoom video conferencing to have a leaders’ meeting,” Pastor Malcolm Tyree explains. “We wanted to remind our church that Jesus taught his disciples that it wasn’t about size or location, but rather about the purpose of the gathering. Our youth group on Zoom met during the first week. Using Scattergories dice, we had a scavenger hunt via video chat. We then had discussions and a devotional time. Our children came together for a group chat that involved an adult reading to the kids. We have also done a kid’s Sunday school class with songs, games, and Bible memory verses. Our young adult community has hosted a game night and a Bible study through Zoom. We’ve had Spanish-language prayer meetings. And, after each Sunday broadcast of the worship assemblies, we’ve hosted a Zoom call to catch up and pray with one another.”
Malcolm points out that the mute feature, available to hosts of a Zoom meeting, can be very practical. He suggests it can help teens and children settle down, as well as allow them to feel more comfortable in being “their normal selves.” But for the online video broadcast of their Sunday worship experience, New Vida Church of God has experimented with Vimeo and, like many other churches, utilized Facebook Live.
“Our biggest goal is not just to produce a quality ‘TV program,” Malcolm reflects, “but rather to engage people through this time. Watching the Internet can be passive. We want people to feel active in the process.”
Widespread shutdowns have certainly wreaked havoc on the economy, personal and corporate schedules, and much more. But Pastor Malcolm sees a benefit, and it, also, has involved the blessing of technology when used for God’s glory.
“The extra time on one’s hands has led to people stepping out and hosting Facebook Live testimonies or songs,” he explains. “Our emerging leaders have stepped up to consider how to care for our older members by offering them help in navigating online ordering, or in picking up items. We are seeing people rally to connect with one another.”
Pastor Malcolm has also observed that, at least among the flock he shepherds, almost everyone is online. Even the church’s senior adults generally are connected in some form or fashion to the Internet. For the few who are not, New Vida is actively reaching out via phone, even inviting some to cautiously join healthy households to participate together in worship and virtual gatherings.
During the coronavirus crisis, New Vida Church of God has also sought to provide access to food for persons with limited resources. On March 21, through partnerships with church members and groups that use the church facility, New Vida Church of God distributed food boxes to forty-eight households.
“Disruptions reveal our true purposes,” Pastor Malcolm reflects on the present pandemic. “If we only adapt to produce a better online experience for our members and fail to see the physical needs around us, we will have missed a key opportunity.”
How is YOUR church utilizing the best of technology through the COVID-19 crisis? Leave a comment on our social media or send an e-mail to CHOGnews@chog.org to let us know! Thank you!
Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.