By Tiffany Self
How do we care for our communities well amid isolation, racial tension, and economic uncertainty?
In light of what’s going on in the world today, we clearly need to humbly plead for God’s help and guidance as we recognize that our world needs places where people can feel heard and respected, but at a time when many of us still can’t be together as we desire.
In David Augsburger’s book, Caring Enough to Hear and Be Heard, he writes: “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.” So, how do we create spaces where people can feel heard and valued when we can’t gather in person?
The first and most important step is to bathe any decisions in prayer. We know that outreach doesn’t work without the Holy Spirit. This is even more true when all of the elements that we humans believe make it effective are stripped away due to the virtual environment. So, any decisions about resources and programming must be prayed over — a lot! God is not surprised by what is continuing to happen in our nation and world today, and we need to be on the same page as Him in our response.
Next, we need to continue to provide opportunities for connection, where people feel they can have honest conversations, but that ultimately point them to developing a relationship with Jesus. A church must create or facilitate programs that foster engagement when people can’t be together in person. We need to seek out virtual programming and resources that build environments where people can still reap the benefits of community and not just feel like they are talking to a person on a screen. Not only do people need human interaction, but making sure people feel known, heard and cared for in an online format is essential.
Finally, working toward evangelistic opportunities remains a priority. We know there is no true solution to worldly pain and suffering outside of the gospel. The Holy Spirit is on the move, and Christians are still called to the same mission we have been called to since the beginning, to help people discover and develop a relationship with Jesus. I recommend that churches find resources, such as the virtual courses provided by Alpha USA, which can help minister to those already in as well as those who can join our congregations.
The bottom line is to foster that connectivity and interaction. Whether in the small group format or even one-on-one, the people to whom we are reaching out need to not just be preached to, but to have the opportunity to ask the big and sometimes difficult questions. We may not have all of the answers, but they need to know we are not afraid to be asked, and we will still love them and are committed to helping them find the answers they need. We must assure them their voices will be heard and their hurts acknowledged. Building these kinds of trusted relationships will transcend our current social-distancing hurdles and will show the people in our communities that we truly do care for them, and that most importantly, so does Jesus.
Tiffany Self is the Director of Communications and Marketing for Alpha USA. She has served in a variety of capacities in ministry spanning from Christian higher education to leading small groups for adults and teens. Her marketing career of more than 20 years has dovetailed with her desire to see God’s kingdom expand across the globe. Tiffany lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and teen son.