“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” – 3 John 2
Silver Spring, March 31, 2020
Dear Colleague in ministry,
Greetings in the Name of Jesus, our Savior and Friend! All around us are unmistakable evidences that we are living in perilous times. This is not a time for fear or anxiety, but rather a special season for sober reflection, ministry to the needs of those we serve, and total trust in God. While the world is reeling in pain and uncertainty, please be assured that we are praying for you and desire to do all we can to support you and your ministry.
Below you will find general suggestions for maximizing your ministry opportunities during the COVID-19 pandemic. These suggestions are accompanied by practical ideas, specific resources and tools from your global community of Seventh-day Adventist pastors. To access these supporting resources please visit https://ministerial.adventist.org/covid19. Whatever your ministry circumstance, we are all in this together and need to pray for each other. We can also be assured of heaven’s tender love and constant watch care (1 Peter 5:7).
Your Friends and Colleagues, General Conference Ministerial Association.
1. Personal Spirituality
a. Make the most of this opportunity to pray. Be intentional and dedicated. Pray for spiritual resilience, personal revival, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so essential for finishing the work. Pray for church members and the vulnerable in our churches and communities. Let’s use the extra time available to (i) grow deeper in our relationship with Jesus, (ii) allow God to search our hearts to show us any unclean thing needing confession (Ps. 139:23), and (iii) listen to God’s voice sharing His specific and timely plans for us, our church and families. Visit https://revivalandreformation.org for an abundance of helpful resources on deepening our spiritual lives.
b. Study Scripture (e.g. Daniel, Matthew 24, Luke 21, 2 Thessalonians 2, Revelation), read Ellen G. White books (e.g. The Great Controversy, Last Day Events, Maranatha), and stay open to what the Spirit says to the church: “There is danger of trusting to human plans and methods … While we are to labor earnestly for the salvation of the lost, we must also take time for meditation, for prayer, and for the study of the word of God. Only the work accomplished with much prayer, and sanctified by the merit of Christ, will in the end prove to have been efficient for good” (Desire of Ages, 362).
c. Reflect on current times, understanding that “the work which the church has failed to do in a time of peace and prosperity, she will have to do in a terrible crisis, under most discouraging, forbidding circumstances” (Evangelism, 31). “Pestilences will sweep away thousands. Dangers are all around us ... And being in the position that we are, we need to be wide awake, wholly devoted, wholly converted, wholly consecrated to God. But we seem to sit as though we were paralyzed. God of heaven, wake us up!” (Last Day Events, 26-27).
2. Sabbath Worship Services & Sabbath School
a. Encourage members to study the Bible and Sabbath School (SS) lessons daily. Encourage parents to engage with children and youth and their SS lessons. Visit http://children.adventist.org/activities-for-children and http://ministerial.adventist.org/covid19#2 for more resources for children.
Watch and share Hope Sabbath School (http://hopetv.org/hopess), InVerse (http://hopetv.org/inVerse), and other Sabbath school and worship programs available through radio, TV, and internet resources. Find SS lessons for all ages at http://sabbathschoolpersonalministries.org/page-488.
b. Use streaming platforms (e.g. Zoom, YouTube, Facebook) for teaching or preaching services. Prayerfully prepare timely, relevant, encouraging messages and sermons, asking God for guidance at such a time as this (1 Chronicles 12:32). For ideas on how to set up online streaming visit https://conta.cc/2QUHTN6.
c. Find ways to be intentionally and inclusively present with our church and broader communities, even during this time of necessary social distancing.
a. Thoroughly wash hands, frequently sanitize home and workplace surfaces, maintain social distancing and other health practices, as recommended by the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public).
b. Promote preventative health practices in your church and community. Strengthen your immune system through NEWSTART (Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunlight, Temperance, Air, Rest, Trust in God), as recommended by General Conference Health Ministries. See videos and counsels on COVID-19 at http://healthministries.com/coronavirus.
c. Observe national and local regulations, even when required to close your church. Recognize that this is a health issue, not a religious liberty issue, at this time.
a. Establish effective communication channels with key congregational leaders (e.g. elders, deacons and deaconesses, community services, and media team).
b. Maximize your communication tools and personnel, expanding where possible.
c. Receive and quickly share relevant information from conference, union, and division leadership, as well as your local authorities. Have a church action plan, as recommended by Adventist Risk Management, for before, during, and after an outbreak of the disease in your community (https://tinyurl.com/v3oukg2).
a. Care for the physically and emotionally vulnerable (e.g. seniors, those with underlying health conditions, homeless, financially challenged, mental health conditions), and the spiritually vulnerable (e.g. seekers, baptismal candidates, newly baptized members), following guidelines on social distancing.
b. Assign names of vulnerable members to elders for phone/text/social media visits.
c. Facilitate connections to and between all church members (e.g. virtual and phone meetings for prayer, Bible study, and mutual supportive fellowship). Encourage participation in the global 100 Days of Prayer for COVID-19 (https://revivalandreformation.org/100days).
6. Family Relations
a. Practice and encourage nurturing family relations. Use this time to cook and eat meals together, walk outside together if you can, play together, read quality books, be positive, and laugh. Set aside couple time to connect, commit to working together as a team, and talking together as friends. Find family nurturing resources at https://family.adventist.org/FMplanbook.
b. Practice and encourage daily family worship. Sing songs, read and memorize scripture, and pray together. Encourage personal time and space for each family member.
c. Practice and encourage healthy and safe communication. Affirm and validate emotions that come from anxiety triggered by the pandemic. Reach out to single and widowed relatives and friends who live alone. Encourage members to resist any abusive practices, embracing the fruit of the Spirit, especially patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. Model healthy, non-abusive family relations.
d. While many families are in lock-down, they are facing various challenges (finances, relationship, children, mental health, etc.). The Journal deals specifically with these struggles of the family regularly. Find all issues at https://ministerial.adventist.org/pastoral-families/spouses/magazine/
a. Model and encourage faithfulness, sacrifice, and seeking God’s will in giving, trusting in God who promises to supply all our needs (Luke 6:38; Philippians 4:19).
b. Expand online giving options for tithe and offering, guided by the local conference.
c. Visit https://stewardship.adventist.org for more resources to encourage faithful giving.
d. Explore available church resources for community service opportunities.
a. Watch for opportunities to meet spiritual needs emerging from the community, in light of the current crisis.
b. Encourage members to look for opportunities to pray for and minister to their neighbors, following guidelines on social distancing. Research and utilize appropriate tools to meet these spiritual needs (e.g. tracts, videos, cell phone evangelism, videos, online evangelistic meetings).
c. Visit https://www.gcevangelism.net for free evangelistic sermons and royalty-free graphic illustrations.
9. Community Service
a. Encourage members to reach out to their neighbors regarding household needs, following guidelines on social distancing.
b. Offer assistance to local authorities regarding community needs.
c. Support overworked health and emergency professionals in your community.
10. Pastoral Self-care
a. Take care of yourself spiritually, physically, mentally, and socially. Being rundown increases the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 and other illnesses.
b. Create boundaries to maintain balance in lifestyle and ministry.
c. Allow the body of Christ to share the workload, recognizing that self-care is not selfish.