For a Time Such as This: Your Parish and the COVID-19 Crisis – Week 2 Digital Communication

March 28, 2020

Currently, I am using this space to explore what we are doing at Nativity to weather this crisis and rebuild beyond it.  But honestly, we’re making it up as we go along, just like you.  We’ll be sharing with you what we’re doing, what’s working, and what isn’t. As always, our only credential is that, like you, we’re in the trenches figuring it out.

If you haven’t read last week’s message, check it out here: (link). 

Sudden crises tend to accelerate disruptive trends.  The changes we have been putting off for so long tend to become obvious when we are faced with an overwhelming, existential threat.  This moment in time is no different.  Fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has forced parishes and other church institutions to embrace many changes that some once thought were incongruent with our mission. 

It is tempting to feel that we are totally unequipped to face the insurmountable challenges ahead. But we must also remember that this time is unique not just because of its challenges but because of its opportunities.  Technologies that did not exist even a year ago – accessible livestreaming tools, capable and cheap video conferencing, and ubiquitous high-speed mobile internet – allow us to continue living out our mission nearly uninterrupted. 

Here are a few strategies you should consider when transitioning to digital communication:

#1. Tailor your communication to fit the current landscape.

Most of our communication channels were designed to reflect what our churches looked like before the quarantine.  Your church building on the cover of your bulletin, photos of your children’s choir or youth group activities on your web site…all obviously who you were before the crisis but not how your parish is engaging people right now.

It is especially important to update your website in view of this crisis. This past week we completely made over our home page (check it out: churchnativity.com).  Your website is the new front door for your parish.  How it looks and what it communicates will be the first impression for almost all potential new guests – even those who will one day attend your services in person.  That it is relevant to people’s concerns these days is incredibly important. What images and language are you using, to reflect how you are reaching people in this time of isolation. And take this opportunity to get rid of some of the clutter.

#2. Establish a rhythm of communication.

If you’re wading into digital communication for the first time, the options seem endless and intimidating.  Don’t try to hit them all at once.  Focus on creating a consistent rhythm of excellent communication through social media and your email list.

It used to be that people wanted to hear from us one day a week.  Now, they are looking for hope every day.  Use your social media channels frequently to solicit prayer requests, summarize important points of your homilies, share inspiring resources, and participate in the prayer life of the parish. 

Email is a great tool for infrequent, more formal, or parish-wide announcements.  However, if you overcommunicate, each message loses value.  Aim for about one per week, at most. 

#3. Foster connection.

Contrary to some schools of thought, online tools can foster genuine connection.  Social media is for more than just pushing content.  Make an effort to engage people in conversation.  Even posts with unassuming questions like “What was the first movie you remember seeing in a theater?” will get people engaging and bonding over shared interests. 

Video chat tools like Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts, can also be indispensable ways of keeping small groups connected.  Encourage your Bible studies, men’s and women’s groups, and even children’s ministry to use video chat to keep up their regularly scheduled meetings. 

These innovations are here…and they’re here to stay.

Welcome to what church looks like now.

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