Closed doors and a crash course helps church outreach
By Drew Bergman
This is the continuation of a series of weekly articles featured in The Adair Progress about how churches in Adair County are adapting to the social distancing restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Since the governor ordered church door closed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, area pastors have been hard at work carrying out the order and shifting their ministry to modes that make worship safer for everyone.
Among those making the change is Pastor Chris Langston of the Columbia Seventh Day Adventist Church. He has faced a crash course in social media as well as video production but continues to work to improve how he gets his message out to the people who no longer can gather together.
“I didn’t have any [social media presence],” Pastor Chris said, “So once this all came to a head, I had to play catch-up, which I have striven to do with all my might. I have been really endeavoring to improve the content that I’m putting out from the church.”
Apart from streaming a Sabbath services as well as special Sabbath services from the Kentucky Tennessee Conference on Saturday mornings, Pastor Chris has been taking their Sabbath School lessons online to the YouTube channel he has created for the Columbia Seventh Day Adventist Church.
“Every day I put out a portion of the lesson so that people who are at home can keep up with that Sabbath school lesson and be prepared Saturday morning before we have the service.”
The church already had a functional online presence before the pandemic, but the needs of the current crisis caused Pastor Chris to have to double and redouble his efforts. “I’m starting to improve in that area every single day,” he said. “We’ve had a church website, we’ve had a church Facebook, but we’re using it now far more now than we ever had before. It’s become a way for us to mass communicate with our congregation and with anyone who might be interested in what we have going on.”
Pastor Chris is encouraged by his early success adapting to the current state of things and has maintained a positive and forward-thinking attitude as to what opportunities these challenges have brought. “Our doors have been shut with this isolation…. we’ve not been able to gather, not been able to have church. Fortunately, with everything that is available to us through the internet this has been a chance to get involved in more ‘virtual ministry’ and to really go beyond what we were doing before and reach a wider audience.
“It’s something we want to continue even after the coronavirus crisis eventually settles down and we’re able to meet again. This has opened a wonderful door to us where we can reach people that before we were not able to.”
While Columbia SDAC had tech in place beforehand, a projector and sound system, they did not have any infrastructure for the move online and Pastor Chris stepped up to purchase the equipment out of pocket, “This has been a kick in our complacency with the technological age we’re living in.”
Because of social distancing he has ordered that equipment online rather than travel to a larger area to obtain it. “Right now, I’m just using the tablet to do this I know a lot of people who are having to use their phones or whatever they have at home.”
One resource Pastor Chris has had is the support of the Seventh Day Adventist Conference of Kentucky and Tennessee, the governing body that oversees SDA churches in the area. “They’re offering free crash courses…. for example, this Monday I’m going to take a free class the conference is offering that will give me the tools to make something nice that people can enjoy.”
He is looking forward not only to continuing to improve the delivery of the church’s message but also, to the time when this crisis abates, and people can gather together again.
“I think that going forward for SDA pastors that social media ministry is going to be more of a requirement than a suggestion because we’ve seen the impact that this has had,” Pastor Chris said. “There have been people really coming out of the woodwork who haven’t been to church in years and don’t necessarily feel comfortable going to church, be it because of health or where they are in life and their Christian walk, and they [look at the online ministries and] say that ‘I can do this,’ and that’s wonderful and we want to encourage that and we want to keep that going.”
He added, “this provides us with the opportunity to continue to give people that connection, to let them know that they have a church family that is thinking about them, that cares about them and for them, that has not forgotten them”
Of course, once church doors reopen there will be less leaning on the online ministry, but having the tools in place, and having generations of clergy with extensive experience using these tools will be a net positive for churches all over.
When asked if he had any message going out of the interview, Pastor Chris said. “I would just say to continue to pray for each other, to pray for us as we pray for all of you. We know that God is in control and that we don’t need to be afraid as long as we put or faith in Him.”