Simple Acts of Kindness Communicate Christ amid Coronavirus Crisis
By David Vogel
“All right, scratch all that. We’re actually not meeting this week.”
Pastor Terry Rolen realized late during a March weekday that Sunday services would not be happening. Like almost every other congregation in North America, Bayside Church in Safety Harbor, Florida, found that, despite its best efforts to prepare, the COVID-19 pandemic was having a bigger impact on ministry than anticipated. What makes Bayside Church different, though, is the speed with which it was able to pivot in serving its community.
“Right away when things started getting crazy, we went to daily staff meetings,” Terry said, “and we were like, ‘Our mission hasn’t changed.’” That mission, he explained, is supported by three pillars: worship Jesus, get connected, and take action. “We had to figure out what those three looked like in this pandemic context.”
Solutions for worship and community were easy. “We had a pretty active online engagement going into this situation,” Terry said of his congregation, which averages about seven hundred each weekend. “But mission and outreach were going to look different in this season.”
“There is a hospital right in our backyard,” Terry said. “We reached out to the director of nursing to ask how we could help, and they were like, ‘meals would be great.’”
Partnering with a local Greek restaurant, Bayside Church fed the emergency department’s night staff of seventy people three different times. “We wanted to feed the hospital, and also knew small businesses were struggling,” Terry said. “It was a win-win.”
A second outreach program began organically. “We were wondering how we could challenge our people to serve when their options are limited,” Terry said. “But we also knew people were already doing things on their own, like sewing masks and holding ‘You are our hero’ signs outside the hospital.”
To highlight these acts and encourage more, the church began a hashtag campaign on social media with [hashtag] #weseeyou. “We did this twenty-day challenge,” Terry commented. Each day offered an easy, bite-size opportunity like “thank a frontline hero” or “encourage a neighbor.” “People took it and ran,” Terry added. “It was cool.”
Despite meeting physical and relational needs in the community, there was a spiritual demand Pastor Terry was wondering how to fill. “I felt kind of helpless in a way,” he said. “What can I do?”
So, he started a daily prayer service on Facebook Live. “Honestly, I had no expectations,” he said. “If just two or three people prayed with me, that was fine.” But it didn’t stay small long.
“We regularly have over one-hundred people log on for this 7:30 AM service,” he said, “just praying for this season.”
The sum of all these efforts has made Terry proud of his congregation. “It was not a big, strategic plan,” he remarks. “As a pastor, the most rewarding thing through this season is being able to minister to people daily. I hope it’s been rewarding for other folks, too.”
Help churches like these respond to urgent needs in their communities as a result of COVID-19:
David Vogel is the communication director for Central Community Church in Wichita, Kansas.
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.