Schools and churches have closed, and mission plans have been cancelled or postponed. But we’re finding that COVID-19 lockdown is also opening up some fantastic new mission fields. Toby Chant from SU’s South West regional team explores the opportunities.
It’s been really interesting to see some trends emerging under coronavirus restrictions that I believe will shape how we do mission both now and in the future.
Across the country, use of digital tools has soared and, with most of us having to stay home, we're using them to keep connected. Parents are holding work meetings using online video conferencing, while their children access their lessons online. Families, friends and community groups are using apps such as WhatsApp to stay connected, perhaps making even more 'contact' than ever before.
"Children and young people have had their lives turned upside down and are having to rethink what’s really important to them"
As a result, digital has also become much more honest and unpolished. Now, it’s more about keeping up our collective spirits and our connections than presenting an airbrushed image to the outside world.
In addition, lockdown has prompted a surge of interest in spirituality. Children and young people have had their lives turned upside down and are having to rethink what’s really important to them. As part of their search for purpose, stability and comfort they are open to learning more about faith and prayer.
Thanks to your ongoing support, I have the privilege, along with other SU staff, to think through how we can make the most of digital tools in mission, and I’m really excited at the prospect. Here are some initial thoughts as we step into this brave new world:
Maintain existing relationships
Digital tools can help churches keep in touch with children and young people they already know, so that when lockdown ends they don’t have to rebuild relationships from scratch. For example, churches could offer online assemblies for local schools to send out as part of their online daily teaching programmes. Group activities, such as schools clubs, could be adapted to work online – provided that can be done within Safeguarding policies. Our new digital Lockdown resources include lots of ideas for your online groups to use in discussion and prayer, as well as information to help you consider some of the issues.
Reach out to children and young people without church backgrounds
It’s probably the case that children and young people who aren’t part of a church will find it much less daunting to participate in something online than if you invited them to a church building. And many of our new Lockdown resources are designed to help churches embrace this opportunity. As well as providing videos and other content to be shared with the 95, we’ve also included guidelines on what to consider when inviting the 95 to your online ‘events’.
Experiment with content
Your church could invite a volunteer or well-known local personality to make short ‘a day in the life of’ videos for your Facebook page using their phone – perhaps to demonstrate how faith is part of their everyday life. With appropriate permissions, your children and young people could create and submit content too, or perhaps take part in an online Sunday church service.
Improve your own team’s connectedness and effectiveness
Our SU South West team used to physically meet up monthly for a catch-up. But with the travel involved, it would take a whole day. Now we have a daily online video conferencing session to pray, to update each other about developments, brainstorm ideas and to respond quickly and efficiently to new opportunities. Of course, we still long for the day we can meet up in person again, but the impetus to meet daily has been hugely beneficial.
I don’t think digital will ever replace the value of face-to-face in mission work. But I can see a future where the two work seamlessly together, helping us to reach many more non-church children and young people with the gospel than we ever thought possible. And I believe that those churches that are swift – but thoughtful – in embracing digital tools now, will be the ones that thrive in the future.
Explore our lockdown resources
Sharing the good news of Jesus with children and young people isn't easy at the best of times. Add in social distancing measures and it may seem impossible. But don't worry, we're here to help with our dedicated Lockdown content! Click the button to explore these resources
Read more Connecting You stories
This story featured in the Summer 2020 edition of our supporter magazine, Connecting You. You can read more Connecting You stories here.
- Connecting You