It has been over one full year since the beginning of March 2020, when normal, as we knew it, changed. A full year has come and gone since church leaders had to make some of the hardest decisions they’ve ever had to make and scramble to find new ways to worship and embrace this new normal.
One full year.
We had no idea that Covid-19 would still be affecting our lives a year later. Many people are still working from their homes. Many families are facing economic difficulties. Many churches are still meeting online, or sadly not at all. Many are still isolated or removed from loved ones.
It continues to be a lonely time for many of your church members.
But even in this season of challenges, it has also been a year of opportunity.
We have seen opportunities to connect with one another in ways we never had before. There are new opportunities to lean on one another. These opportunities have forced us outside of our comfortable spots within the church sanctuary to learn that the church is more than just the building it is housed in.
As one month has turned into four months and four months into a year, it is important to make sure that we are still staying connected with one another as we first were when we were all stuck in our homes.
Keep in touch with all your church family.
It is important to acknowledge that we cannot simply go back to worship back in the church as it was before. If your church is already able to meet again in the building or is getting ready to open its doors, you may notice that it is the same few that will feel safe attending—but not everyone will attend for a variety of reasons.
This simply means we must ensure we are working together as a community to merge those who still are not able to be with us physically in all our church events and in-person gathering.
But how do we keep track of all the members and ensure no one is left behind?
Your church directory is a great place to start, especially if you do not have the budget for a church management software system.
Make sure your church directory is always up to date.
When the pandemic began, a Virginia pastor issued a challenge to his congregation in a Sunday sermon: “Go to the church directory and find a person who you do not know. Give them a call, ask how they are doing in this coronavirus craziness and get to know them a bit.” It was a good challenge, and important new bonds were created.
But guess what?
The church directory that most members had in their homes was terribly outdated.
So, if your church is up for a directory update, do not push it off until things are back to normal. Take the time now to ensure it is updated, and keep it updated regularly.
Since many of us are not meeting in person and you may not be able to distribute paper directories easily, consider using an online church directory program. These programs provide the tools to make your church directory a reality within a framework, yet they provide options to customize your directory in the way that you need. With the right resources, you can realistically create a church directory that could be up and running in hours, not months.
Church directory programs that are found online often allow making updating instantaneous, and they offer the ability for members to submit their own edits or suggest an edit to the directory administrator for an approval.
Plus, you oversee gathering your church member’s photos, so they are not exposed to the risks of an outside photographer coming to take photos and trying to sell photo packages.
Many of these online programs offer a free trial to start, so if it is not working for your church, you can cancel and not owe anything.
Finding an online directory with a free member app.
When searching for an out-of-the-box directory program to help create your church directory, be sure to look for one that offers a free member app. These member apps put the directory in your member’s hands on their mobile devices, so they always have it with them!
You can easily offer a Zoom meeting or livestream a special church directory night where you can screen share your phone to show members how to log into the program and navigate through the directory.
Many of your members will be worried about security and privacy. Look for a program that offers a secure log in system and that also allows you to remove a directory from a member’s device if needed. You’ll also want to be sure the data is held securely and uses current industry best standards.
Using groups to ensure no members are left isolated.
Another way to ensure that no members fall through the cracks is to create groups within your church or church directory.
One small church in Ohio has divided their membership into four groups. These groups then rotate on which Sunday they will be attending services in-person and which Sundays they will worship from home. This gives everyone a safe opportunity to worship in-person at least once a month if they wish avoid overcrowding their small building.
Another church is creating groups that provide for smaller communities within the church to help look out for members that are in their group. These smaller groups have their own online fellowship hour and work together to make sure the elderly, families and single members are supported. These groups have encouraging titles like “Courage, Love, Joy, and Hope” – all words that are wonderful reminders of what the church is made of.
Another way to group your church members is based on if they are attending in-person services, still attending virtually, not attending because they are homebound due to illness or age, or members that have pulled away from the church during this time. You can then designate deacons, church leadership, or mature volunteers to further watch over these members. Classifying your members in such a way should remain confidential to only your church leadership and staff. If you wish to use your directory program to help organize members, look for a Private Group or Notes feature in the directory program.
Praying through your church directory.
Even if you just simply do not have the means, time, or ability to update your directory, be sure to pull it out, dust it off and begin praying through the pages.
Sometimes when we’re unsure what to do next, the one thing we can do is pray for one another. And sometimes, that is all we need to do.
This information is provided courtesy of Instant Church Directory, a small team of dedicated folks working hard from home to build a simple tool for connecting church members. Visit their website at www.InstantChurchDirectory.com to learn more about their online church directory solution.