We are poised for the pandemic. Although the worldwide COVID-19 breakout provides more than enough opportunity for foreboding and dismal news, in many ways Adventists have been preparing and are poised to be agents of hope in times such as this. As evidenced in our name alone, our anticipation of Jesus’ soon arrival can be a beacon of encouragement to all and a determination to be tender and present with those who need good news.
However, truth be told, our denomination as a whole was not ready to be “shoved” into the digital world by social distancing mandates. Our historic assumptions of going to “church” have instantaneously expired. With the efforts to “flatten the curve” in our respective communities and countries, the church has had to resort to change as it’s only recourse. Although “change” is romanticized in our rhetoric, for most in our faith community, abrupt “change” can cause more fear than a viral infection. And yet, change is happening faster than ever before.
Early in March, I think Benjamin Lundquist stated it well, “I’ve seen more creativity/innovation from the church in the last three days, than in the last ten years.”
It is in this era of rapid change that Growing Young Adventists can be a helpful compass for churches as they rethink and realign themselves for the present challenges and opportunities. Justin Yang composed and released an intriguing infographic offering suggestions of how the Growing Young commitments can contour a church’s identity, belonging, and purpose in a the midst of a pandemic. Playing off of his graphic, here’s a top-of-my-head actionable list to which you can likely add more:
- Work alongside younger generations in developing digital ways to connect with church members.
- Have digital natives tutor older members on how to use their electronic communication devices.
- Collaborate with young creatives to produce engaging worship experiences for the entire church.
- Work to understand the impact of the pandemic on your congregation in the various aspects of their lives [i.e. emotional, socio-economical, social, physical, occupational].
- Seek to understand the emotional and spiritual condition of the more “at risk” populations.
- Interview your young people to hear more clearly what their view is on the pandemic and how it may impact them now and in the future.
- Study and parallel Jesus’ admonitions to His first century disciples to what He may be sharing with Christ-followers in the 21st century. In context of the pandemic, what might Jesus’ be calling His Church to in our relationship to the world?
- Decide what Jesus’ message in “the Beatitudes” means in application today.
- What is Jesus’ asking of us as “ambassadors of reconciliation” in the current era? As “salt” and “light?”
- Given social distancing and other related health precautions, how might we innovate was to share care while complying.
- Communicate connectedness with members through your social media platforms.
- Encourage the front-line, essential workers and professionals through random acts of kindness.
Prioritize Young People and Families
- Innovate at-home interactive Scriptural experiences for parents to do with their children.
- Offer families opportunities to produce videos to be shared as part of the church’s online worship services.
- Discover what are the needs of parents in adjusting to stay-at-home life.
- Find out how best to support the food insecure in your community.
- Don’t hoard.
- Give blood.
Defined as “a new period in history resulting from major changes in society, especially technological; a future world or society experiencing positive and negative effects from major changes,” over the past several days my mind has returned to the phrase “brave new world.“
In so many ways, we are all living in a brave new world. May you and I discover and innovate ways to be relevant Adventist agents of grace. May we be creative, consistent, and compassionate in our efforts to curate change, but also help people adapt to it. May we keep Christ as the epicenter of our endeavors and cling more tightly to Him than to our traditions. May we persist, thrive, and grow. . . in this brave new world.