It was good to hear the buz of conversation at the conference office today as the Wisconsin pastors met together for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic. The morning was spent sharing testimonies of both blessings and challenges each pastor has faced over the past couple of months. After lunch, administration shared updates on our mission and finance. Before heading home, prayer requests were exchanged, and pastors gathered in small groups to pray for each other’s families and ministries.
Below is a sampling of the thoughts shared during the morning’s testimony time.
Juanita Edge, Wisconsin Conference Communication Director
Have new Bible studies with neighbors that likely would have never happened under normal circumstances,
Many learning to use social media
Held more open conversations than normal with people by phone during this time.
Seen God moving, affirming, and encouraging people through difficulties.
Learning to put everything in God’s hands. Letting God be God.
A time to reset life priorities and balance with God in light of end times.
Enjoyed more time to get out in nature, walk, and relax.
Relished more bonding with family time and family worship.
Have developed a deep respect for teachers.
Lost weight during this.
Enjoyed wife’s home-cooked food every day.
Good to have time at home to read and study more.
Feel this experience has kicked all the fear out of me. My banner I’ll be waving is, “The Lord brought us through all this, He’s up to whatever we face in the future.”
Looking ahead we want to be sure no member is left behind.
More members were calling to check up on each other, providing food where needed and praying for one another.
Many people are searching for meaningful ways to connect themselves with Jesus and with others.
We may not have been prepared for this, but I’m amazed at how flexible we’ve been and were able to adjust and continue ministry.
Many spent quite a bit of time on the phone with the elderly who had no way to connect through media.
Our reach seemed to have shrunk, yet the people we ministered to expanded. Our overall footprint became much much greater.
We can’t be prepared for every situation but Gods’s grace is sufficient for every situation.
10 years ago we couldn’t have connected like this through internet. God has given us ways to deal with this emergency, and He still provide for the future.
I’ve had more connection with members now than I had before when not using so much internet and phone.
I think it’s a beautiful thing that we are all more aware now of who is missing. We are now asking, “Am I connecting with everyone?”
We had a crisis but it really didn’t reach a crisis level.
This pandemic has helped us put priority on personal relationships.
We cannot lay our online community aside, it is like another church community now. We need to continue this avenue of ministry.
Our online presence is the new front door of our church. Your website matters, your contact matters. It introduces the church as a place they might like to go to.
Nothing can replace in-person ministry.
Those wanting to connect only online are no less spiritual, they are craving, and we need to continue putting content out there for them.
Bible says we are to come together in community and go out to effect the world.
Some leaders have felt so overworked, that this pandemic has been a wonderful time to enjoy the Sabbath and being restful during those hours.
You can be just as disconnected from doing ministry sitting in the pew as we are in a pandemic.
There is real strength in doing ministry together, we get more done when we do ministry together: elders, ministers, members.
A shared traumatic experience can be a springboard for clearer mission and ministry.
This has been a good training ground for whatever comes next. We know we can face the future with Jesus.
What is Zoom? Never knew before pandemic hit.
In one district six families had COVID-19, one died. The funeral had to be through Zoom. So much harder to be a support!
Some members believed COVID-19 was real while others did not.
Nothing we had planned to do as a church before COVID-19 worked out. Do previous plans apply anymore?
I’m still wrestling with how to feel about all this.
Many are missing the face to face element of ministry.
It was hard wearing a mask.
Experienced frustration at not being good with technology.
Wondering now what is the best way to make connections with the people we don’t know, but who have connected with our sites during the pandemic.
Gods word has become such a powerful, sustaining, encouraging power, I’m leaning harder on that than ever.
How is the spirituality of our people? Will they come back to church? Do people feel they can just stay home and study on their own without the body of Christ?,
How to change ministry focus from being program-based to being people-based in both the congregation and community.
With the fast pace in which our world is changing, will we be able to keep up?
When the early church started they were not discriminated against, they were executed.
Our children are on our hearts. God says not to fear, but to depend on Him.
Our normal roles at home have changed. I’m cooking, cleaning and teaching school now.
What is actually true?
COVID-19 was a surprise. There was no procedure book for it, but we’ve been given a lot of perspective. We’ve pulled together and had a solid base of Scripture to minister from.
I think we were not prepared for this, but we adapted well.
What if the next issue is a religious liberty issue? Are we ready?
What are ways we can still reach out?
On-line ministry doesn’t replaced in person ministry. Many older members don’t even have computers.
The speed with which issues are coming at us, first the pandemic, and now racial issues, what will be next?
In some ways, our ministry during the pandemic has been like a fast-food type of ministry. It can’t fill the void of needing whole person ministry.
Is church simply something we consume? People toying with idea of what church is.
Some members have commented I would much rather have my Sabbath at home with my family. Is community important?
What is Sabbath? What is community? Why are we doing what we are doing?
Online we are removed from being involved and accountable. The way we have worked in the past is we work together, serve together, minister together.
We can preach by social media, but there is a part of ministry that is missing,
If our mission Is to get people to come be part of the church family, online is incomplete. We need both.
The “It Is Written” ministry admits they have problems getting people from their couch to almost any form of connection with community.
We don’t know what the Holy Spirit has been doing during this pandemic. Are we ready for new people to enter our churches now?
We will now simply invite people to return to church, let them know church is open, and we will respect people’s decisions. We can continue to lead the flock to unite and fellowship without pressure.