At the start of COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, a meme was making the rounds online stating, “The Church isn’t empty; it’s been deployed.” That was never more true than when our governor extended the Stay-at-Home order, sealing the fate of empty sanctuaries across the state for Easter Sunday. Leading up to it, churches were revising their ministry playbook with creative approaches to weekend services, discipleship, and outreach, and we have heard incredible stories of churches rising to the challenge. The weekend of April 10-12, 2020 will go down as a moment in time where innovation and adaptability expanded the reach of the local church and lasted well beyond Easter.
Live-streaming has now become the new normal for services and pastors are utilizing any space they can to make it happen. Sheldon and Crystal Beilke of Frontline Church tranformed their living room into a studio. Chris and Heather Vincent of The Bridge Church in St. Francis did the same while their son huddled in the corner off-camera running slides on the TV. Many churches utilized their facilities. Nick Benson is streaming youth services on YouTube from New Life Church in Foley. Keith Thompson of Living Hope AG in Little Falls preached to handfuls of people on the tech team in their auditorium. Jim Gooden of Real Life Church in Roseville even printed out pictures of church members and attached them to empty seats.
Preaching in front of a camera may seem ineffective in the moment, but churches are reporting that video views are eclipsing their usual weekly attendance. People are looking for hope and they’re finding it online. They are also desperate for community, and churches have put tools like Zoom and social media to work.
Monica DeLaurentis of Life Center in Minneapolis posts daily encouragements on Instagram. Rob Ketterling of River Valley Church in Apple Valley started a YouTube series called “Conversations” tackling topics like fear and navigating the unknown. Tanya McKinley and her daughter Morgan recently led a “Worship Wednesday” on Facebook for Journey Church in Vilnius, Lithuania. Dale Norman of Redeeming Love Church in Maplewood hosts Kids Church over Zoom every weekend.
The pandemic has changed outreach for churches as well. A few months ago, who would have imagined a toilet paper giveaway like the one organized by Emmanuel Christian Center in Spring Lake Park? Like many others, Reach Church in Alexandria offered free coffee to medical personnel and first responders. Echo Church in Rochester gave away free pizzas to teachers and school administrators. North Star Community Church in Coon Rapids partnered with a local business to provide face shields for medical workers.
Easter weekend 2020 was like no other before it! Lighthouse Fellowship in Milaca held drive-in church as did WestPointe Church in Delano and Valley Christian Center in Spring Valley. The Waters Church in Sartell broadcasted four services from the rooftop while families listened along on their car radios. All over Minnesota thousands tuned in online and we’ve heard numerous reports of people giving their lives to Christ for the first time.
Many things have been changed by COVID-19, but as Supt. Mark Dean shared in a recent update, the Gospel will still be preached. Keep moving forward, Minnesota. We’re in this together!