Exactly What This Very Small Church Needed
Advancing their technology has never been a top priority at Alvadore Christian Church, a congregation of about 65 people in the small, rural town of Junction City, Oregon. It’s not that senior pastor Marcus Omdahl is old-fashioned. Omdahl is a sharp young leader with a wife and school-age daughter. But until recently, he understood that livestreaming was not something the congregation or the community was likely to embrace.
Of course, that all changed with the spread of COVID-19 early in 2020. Immediately, Alvadore Christian, like so many other churches, suspended in-person worship services and began offering programming online. Prior to the state’s stay-home orders, Omdahl had expected to introduce video services in three to four years. Instead, he said, “It went from a want to a need.”
Naturally, it was not easy for such a small congregation to implement digital Sunday services. At first, Alvadore pre-recorded its Sunday broadcast. When the church decided to switch to livestreaming, the costs were prohibitive. Local audiovisual companies offered price quotes far exceeding the congregation’s modest budget, so Omdahl contacted a friend who suggested equipment that would do the job for about 10 percent of the cost.
It was exactly what the church needed at the time—not too elaborate, but not too amateurish.
“The key for us has been trying to avoid the extremes” by providing a reliable online broadcast without a lot of unnecessary production, Omdahl said.
Still, less than two months into the pandemic, the congregation was eager to meet together again.
“It felt like we were losing ground,” Omdahl said.
For Easter Sunday and Mother’s Day, the church offered services in its parking lot. Beginning in June, ACC held outdoor services on the church lawn. By the fall, local authorities allowed the congregation to begin meeting in the building again.
So much change might have been unsettling to another small church, but Omdahl didn’t see it as disorganized or chaotic. It was purposeful.
“The message to the congregation was, ‘You’re really important, whether you’re online, in the parking lot, or inside,’” he said.
Alvadore Christian created “multiple levels of participation” for its members in 2020, though the church was not trying to please everyone. It was trying to please God.
Omdahl said three biblical principles guided the church’s decision-making: submitting to authorities, sacrificing personal freedom, and the mission to reach the lost—many of whom were scared and hungry for the truth.
Unlike many larger churches, attendance at Alvadore Christian Church was not negatively impacted by the pandemic. Because the church is small, the leaders know who is and isn’t present each week.
While Alvadore’s people are now going to church in a variety of new ways, they’re still going. And more are coming. In the first few weeks of 2021, Alvadore Christian Church baptized four new believers, ranging in age from 10 to 85.
“This has not been easy for us,” Omdahl said, “but those baptisms remind me that this little church is feeding souls.”