5 Ways to Use Your Physical Church Space for Outreach during COVID-19

For years, the hypothetical question has been thrown around, “Would anyone miss your church if it suddenly disappeared?” Eeek!  Now, we all get to find out the answer.

Disappear Stephen Colbert GIF by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert - Find & Share on GIPHY

While the church has been deployed to individual homes, the physical presence of the church — people gathering each week for in-person meetings — has almost magically disappeared.

But you know what still remains?  The church building!

While it’s a clever thing to put on social media posts that the church is not the building, we do still own the buildings, so what are we doing with them?

How Can We Use the Church Building?

Recently, in the South Pacific Division, a major project was undertaken to improve church branding and signage.  As a result, there are now beautifully coordinated signs — some even equipped with LED screens — standing in front of empty churches.

Parramatta Church Signage
Source: Parramatta Seventh-day Adventist Church Facebook Page

How can we leverage these signs and our church property for ministry?

An Increase in Exercise

If you’ve been outside exercising you may have noticed a lot of people out and about with the same idea.  To this point, RunRepeat, a site for shoe fanatics, recently surveyed 12,913 participants from 139 countries to assess the impact of COVID-19 on exercise participation.  Surprisingly (or not) they found that there has been an increase in exercise frequency in many parts of the world.

Specifically they said,

  • People who normally exercise up to 1-2 times/week have increased exercising by 88% on average
  • People who normally exercise up to 3 times/week have increased exercising by 38% on average
  • People who normally exercise 4+ times/week have decreased exercising by 14% on average

In many places throughout the world, people are consistently walking past the same buildings, railroad tracks and corner stores during their daily exercise.  While their scenery might stay the same, seeing something different on their route might bring a spark of joy. Because the church owns prime real estate throughout the world, we are well positioned to provide that spark while respecting social distancing rules.

Opportunity to Engage Outdoors

As people are passing your church building, there’s a huge opportunity to use your physical building and signage to share a message with your community.

1. Share Your Church’s Online Service

The most obvious way you can reach out to the community is to ensure people are able to quickly and easily see how they can connect with your online church service.

Here are some questions to ask yourself.

  • Is our website clear and easy to read on signage?
  • Is our URL short enough that they can capture it quickly and easily?
  • Are we sending them to the right page on our website?  Will they have to click 20 times to find the place we want them to go?
  • Do we have the day and the time clearly displayed on the signage or is it obvious when they come to our website?
  • Do we tell them why they should visit our website?

If you have LED signage, use it to display your church’s website.  Make sure to put the day and time of your church’s service so they can connect with you.

An even easier solution would be to display a QR code that someone could quickly capture and go to your website.  (If you’d like to create a QR code, you can use a service like QR Code Generator.)

When thinking about sharing your website, ensure there’s something engaging for people to see when they go to the site.  Put thought into what it would be like for a visitor to land on your page.

(Please note if you’re thinking of putting up new signage, check with your local council for regulations)

2. Share Other Online Resources

If you’ve always seen yourself as a bit of an overachiever and you want to take our first suggestion to the next level, think of other resources you can offer to your community on your website.

Imagine questions they might have, like

  • How do I pray?
  • Who is God?
  • How do I start exercising?
  • What does the book of Revelation mean? or
  • What does the Bible say about how the world ends?

Pose some of these questions so they can see them, and give a QR code so they can find the answers.  You can have someone in your church write the answers in a blog post or video or you can use ready-made resources from sites like Hope Channel, which offers a variety of courses.

If you’re really wanting to generate interest, you can regularly ask different questions and create ongoing conversations with your community members.

3. Offer Community

This might seem too simple, but so many people are hurting for community.  You can offer community on your signage.  Schedule a time when people can simply connect, no religious strings attached, just the offer of human connection.

Display the offer somewhere on your church’s website or social media, or reach out to the people in your area, even by letterboxing them, and let them know you’re available for a call or a Zoom meeting.  Sometimes something as simple as the virtual human touch can be enough to let someone know they’re thought of and cared for.

4. Create a Community Library

Have you ever thought about setting up a community library for people who pass your church?  You can stock it with kids’ books, spiritual material and other items that will serve your community.  There may be regulations you need to follow with this suggestion so check with your local council, but this is another way you can serve your community while using your church’s physical property.

5. Improve Food Security

As we all know, many people are hurting from losing their jobs.  How can your church create a way to provide non-perishable items to those who might be in need while physically distancing as required by the government?

Your local ADRA may be able to provide you with some suggestions (please research any liability issues that may be created), but this is a real way we can reach our communities at this time, while using our physical properties.

And, if your church is not in a position to provide this particular service, can you be a resource to your community and create a handout or display on your signage listing places where people can find these resources?

This type of resource is also great for your website or local community Facebook pages and groups. Allow your church to be of service and let people know what resources are available to them in the community.

6. BONUS: Use Your Church as a Creative Centre

Are you ready to re-think how you see your church’s physical space.  Pastor Matthew Lucio suggests an interesting way to rethink the church space as a centre for creativity.

An Additional Way to Advertise Your Services

If it’s allowed by your local government, you can use this as an opportunity to letterbox your community to let them know how your church is serving them.  On the flier, share the day and time of your church service, useful articles from your website as well as resources your church is providing.

So now, we ask you, which of these ideas will your church implement or what are you already doing?  Visit our Facebook post and let us know!  And remember to respect your local areas rules of social distancing when deciding which ideas to implement!

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