By Jim Nieman
When Southeast Christian Church in Parker, Colo., learned that a nearby church was making its technical and production equipment and expertise available to some churches displaced because of COVID-19 outbreak, they realized they should do the same.
In fact, “We were embarrassed we didn’t think of it first,” said Tom Fitzgerald, executive pastor with Southeast.
Staff at Southeast were aware of a couple of churches meeting in school buildings that have been closed because of the outbreak. Those churches weren’t able to gather to worship or to effectively produce their worship services to share via the Internet.
So, Southeast reached out to 3D Church (which has its offices in the same building as Southeast) and to Cross Culture Church (whose lead pastor, Michael Winakur, formerly served as youth pastor with Southeast).
Both churches accepted Southeast’s offer.
3D Church has its own production equipment, so it just needed a venue, Fitzgerald said on Thursday. That church planned to use Southeast’s youth room for its worship venue.
The worship team and ministers of Cross Culture Church, meanwhile, planned to gather at Southeast Friday and utilize the larger church’s venue, production equipment, and audio and technical staff members.
Fitzgerald said Southeast is pleased to be able to help both 3D and Cross Culture churches. Working together like this, he said, is at least one positive result of the COVID-19 outbreak. And it’s something other large churches could offer to do to help certain smaller churches, especially those that typically meet in schools.
Fitzgerald also shared another positive from within the Southeast Christian Church family.
“We put out an email to the church saying, ‘If you need help [with anything], to let us know, and if you are willing to volunteer [to help] . . . to let us know. As of today [last Thursday], we have 130 volunteers willing to help.
“It’s exciting to see the church being the church.”
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Here are a few more reports from leaders from across the country about how their churches are responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.
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Eagle (Idaho) Christian Church
I lead life groups as part of the greater Eagle Christian Church life group ministry. With nearly 60 people attending our Star, Idaho, groups—who gather in homes during the week—the COVID-19 virus obviously shut down our meetings. We average 18 to 25 people every week. We also have a majority of participants over 50. We didn’t want to risk spread of infection.
So we chose to go online and explore a new way to gather and interact.
Using the Zoom video chat platform, we can accommodate up to 100 participants and—outside of some small modifications—can still run our highly interactive life groups. Our trial run (last Wednesday night) with the first group had 23 attending (up about 5 from average). Tonight [Thursday] we are expecting a few more. Zoom allows us to hold breakout conversations and gender-specific prayer groups of 3-4 people. We can also mute everyone’s microphone to get immediate attention and allow the leader to teach without interruption (making for better transitions from small to large to small interactions).
The best part? We have former life group members who have moved that now want to get back into our group. We are reaching beyond our geographical area. So instead of canceling our life groups (as many are doing), our move to online has proven a win, a growing experience, and a good news story!
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First Christian Church, Council Bluffs, Iowa
First Christian Church is helping to coordinate Council Bluffs Community School District’s Weekend Food Program while students are out of school. We are partnering with churches across the city to assemble weekend food boxes for about 650 families, collecting food donations and assembling the boxes each week while students are out of school. . . .
We also opened our church doors to a food pantry—an all-volunteer effort organized to serve the needs of another local school district. They needed to vacate the schools they occupy due to school closures. The Thriving Titans food pantry [is being] housed in our lobby entrance to serve families easily.
Matt Bortmess, executive pastor
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First Christian Church, Sun City, Ariz.
First Christian Church decided to suspend services for at least two or three weeks. FCC is not set up to livestream services, so we are encouraging folks to “attend church” via computer Sunday with some of our megachurches here in the valley.
We must look at all this as an adventure with Jesus. It is merely part of the tribulation experienced since Pentecost. I know one thing for absolute certainty: God is in control and we who are “his people” will stand (See Revelation 6:17)!
Michael Hines, Elder