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By now you're likely well-versed on social distancing. But people crave personal connection, especially when in times of crisis. A smile as you walk past someone on the street, or a wave hello on Facebook Messenger, Skype, Google Hangouts, or on a Zoom group chat. These small, personal reassurances we give each other every day are keeping us connected.
Interestingly, social distancing has directly impacted our church in a few ways. First, it caused our entire church body to exclusively meet online. With all of our physical campuses being closed, everyone has been channeled into our virtual ministry online, where we do church together—praying and worshipping at various times of the day each week.
Second, it has led a lot of people who were not a part of our church to seek us out online for spiritual answers and support. For instance, prior to COVID-19, our normal online church attendance was nearly 6,000 per week, but on Easter weekend, over 58,000 people joined our online services. In addition, on any given weekend since then, we’ve seen over 24,000 tuning in via our YouTube channel and Apple TV and Mobile App livestreams.
“Since the distancing measures began, we've established a lot of new relationships with people from around the globe,” says Calvary Chapel Church Online Pastor Dan Hickling. According to him, one of the big misconceptions about online ministry is that people communicate less or are less real than they are in person. He finds it to be quite the opposite.
“Online, people have less hedges up and are not as guarded because they feel safe,” Hickling says. “They can be the real them without fearing a lot of social consequences that might incur in person. So, the dynamic is already very open. But when you compound that with a pandemic that's impacting everyone, everywhere . . . what's real gets much more real!”
The good news is when people seek ministry online, they’re not running into any walls that would impede communication.
As the above post shows, woven into our church culture is our ability and nature to communicate with one another. Craig Bayles says it well when he shares, “I am thankful for the increase of community that I have found online.”
We don’t have to speculate too much to understand that what the devil meant for evil, God is using for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. As Erika, one of our online volunteers, put it so perfectly in a recent e-mail to Hickling, “What’s happening (people to people connection) is SO GOD LED. And I know this is part of that revival many of us have been praying for.”
Part of the revival Erika is talking about is seeing the Church respond to opportunities in our neighborhoods. South Florida in particular has a unique multi-cultural, multi-generational advantage—its diversity groundswell—always moving, always growing, always in search of the next swell. When this pandemic crossed our shores, everything came to a halt, and social distancing threatened to stop this wave, but it didn’t succeed because the Church continues to look for opportunities ahead.
Opportunities for all of us to meet, love, and serve our neighbors; for individuals and families to slow their pace and create healthier rhythms of rest, spiritual devotion, and real lines of communication with one another. To check in on each other, whether it’s through a drive by or an online chat. For us, as a church family, it’s through community outreaches, church online, phone and video calls, inspiring social media stories, articles and videos, decorating our windows with challenging messages, teaching online seasonal classes, and producing daily devotionals to help people grow and stay connected to God.
We have the opportunity to be such a blessing in this season—to be salt and light in a dark time, so we can open doors for others to follow.
If you haven’t started a conversation with us yet, let’s get started! We want to get to know you—share your story with us. You can also follow us on Instagram or Facebook. If you have kids or teens, have them connect with Calvary KIDS or our Six78 (middle school) or HSM (high school) ministries. You can also reach our Spanish community para hablar en un ambiente multicultural.