The COVID-19 pandemic influences the believers’ lives very much, as they can not attend regular in-person gatherings, but there is God’s goodwill in everything. The following thoughts were shared by some pastoral workers to show God’s intentions in special times.
1. Believers take root in truth
"Christians should return to the essence of faith, rather than chase fantasies." A female believer S (pseudonym for safety reasons), a graduate of Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, said that believers should keep their focus on Jesus Christ.
S is from a grassroots church in Henan which was in revival before the epidemic, with a registered number of up to 1,200 members who were enthusiastic about evangelism. Church choirs and bands were not only invited to conduct activities in wedding services and memorial services, but sometimes they also blew the ram’s horn during local festivals to spread the gospel to the villagers. The youth fellowship in the church also often went out to conduct evangelistic meetings, sometimes even returning home after 10 pm.
"It was perfect that they had a zeal for God to spread the gospel, but in the midst of this plague, I believe God has a wonderful will in everything," S said that at that time those without a strong foundation of faith became weak in faith when facing difficult times.
Due to recurrent outbreaks of COVID-19, many onsite activities didn’t take place as usual, so believers have to turn to online pastoral care, strengthening their spirituality.
2. The pastoral management ability has been improved
Since the outbreak, in order to prevent the spread of the virus, the country has issued a number of policies, to which churches have actively responded. It is a challenge for the pastoral team to disciple believers well.
A few days ago, an old pastor in Jiangsu shared his experience of how to manage his church during this special period. He said that the pastoral team should understand the reason and purpose of the management and control policies of the government and study relevant documents so that they could explain to worshippers why they should sit at a social distance and register their names. Leaders should first realize that these requirements are good for the health and safety of believers, followed by their explanations to the congregation to avoid spreading misunderstood ideas. As the number of worshippers the church can accommodate is reduced due to these guidelines, the pastoral team must find a way to receive as many believers as possible in the worship service. They should think about increasing the number of sessions, organizing staff workers to manage seats, and requiring the attendees to check in to avoid overcrowding.
Secondly, church workers should learn relevant laws and regulations. For example, facing the demolition of their church due to urban construction, church staff need to study local laws and regulations after praying to understand the government’s intentions to rebuild the church following the guidelines of higher authority. To carry out online pastoral care during COVID-19, church staff must learn the Administrative Measures for Internet Religious Information Service to obtain the "Internet Religious Information Service License".
According to that pastor, being well received by the local government as the church resumed in-person gatherings in accordance with epidemic control requirements, they also got support from the government when they put forward some reasonable suggestions for the church and its members.
3. Establish the family altar to enhance relationships with children
S believed that it was a good opportunity to conduct family worship in the outbreaks when they were forced to stay at home and church activities were suspended.
"When there were Sunday schools and youth fellowships before, believers handed over their children to the church, without doing anything when kids returned home." S shared that the inheritance of faith was very important, and parents could not entrust their children completely to the church, as if they should not just rely on schools in primary education.
She stated that Christian parents should realize the importance of family altars when they could spend more time with their children due to the epidemic. Even if there were no perfect pastoral materials, it was a good way to get closer to God by reading the Bible, praying, and praising. Parents should also practice what they preach. “It can even bring about better results to children’s spirituality than before the epidemic,” if the worship activities in the family could be continued.
- Translated by Abigail Wu