Helping Black Churches Thrive Even in a Pandemic

6 Essential Pandemic Practices for Black Churches

Over nineteen months ago, many black church leaders began to contemplate these questions regarding COVID-19:  What are we going to do if we cannot meet in person for worship services and conduct regular weekly activities?  How will we respond as spiritual leaders to the pandemic? How will we be able to make the shift in the landscape and step into this demanding moment?   Fast forward to fall 2021, many black church leaders are still pondering concrete practices to help navigate through the pandemic.  Keeping that in mind, I will share six practices to not only help black churches survive the pandemic but to also thrive amid this challenge:  

PURPOSEFUL PRAYER

As black churches look to new paths to navigate the future, one of the keys is purposeful prayer. Purposeful prayer is essential to maintaining a strong relationship with God.  It is not an option or an afterthought for maneuvering through the current terrain. Instead, purposeful prayer is an essential component that every healthy and vital black church has in common.    

The purposeful prayer asks God for more love and understanding and persists in pursuing God. Purposeful prayer makes specific requests of God.  Matthew 7: 7-8 NLT is a reminder to not give up in efforts to seeking God:  Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 

PROPHETIC PREACHING

The practice of prophetic preaching is a high priority for black churches in reaching people with different concerns.  Preaching the Word of God includes speaking about everyday life issues, challenges, and circumstances with genuine, hope-filled, reflective evidence that the preacher has spent time studying scriptures Click To Tweet.  Prophetic preaching is a great opportunity to help people see the relevance of God’s Word to daily living.

Prophetic preaching opens up to the power that resides in the Word of God, the power that changes lives for the better: “God means what he says.  What he says goes.  His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey.  Nothing and no one can resist God’s Word. We can’t get away from it—no matter what” (Hebrews 4: 12-13 MSG).  

VISION CASTING

Black churches need a clear, concise, and compelling vision to take the next steps to the place God is leading in applying strategies.  Now is the best time to review and carefully examine processes and age-level programming for effectiveness and then ask the pertinent question:  What is God calling us to do now?  In response to God’s answer, black churches are to move forward courageously and make the necessary shifts and adjustments.  

Proverbs 29:18 MSG connects vision to obedience: “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; but when they attend to what God reveals, they are most blessed.”  The passage penetrates both heads and hearts because it captures an essential truth that points black churches into the preferred future of faithfulness to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

GENEROSITY

Before COVID-19, some black churches were finding it difficult to continue in ministry. During the pandemic, some black churches saw some reductions in financial giving. However, black churches with the capability to provide a digital/online giving plan of action to stay solvent and share a readiness financial vision are making it through the economic storms. 

Some black churches have grown their financial capacity to resource programming ministries because of giving freely and generously.  2 Corinthians 9: 7-8 CEB gives the assurance to believers that God was able to meet their needs: “Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart.  They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure.  God loves a cheerful giver.  God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. Click To Tweet That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.”  A generous God calls for a generous people.

HYBRID: IN-PERSON AND VIRTUAL WORSHIP

Black churches are to remain focused on the mission of the church by making adjustments essential to its future health and vitality.  Therefore, it is crucial to assess contemporary, traditional, or blended worship during these trying and energizing times. In addition, black churches need to look attentively at conducting worship from a twofold plan of action: In-person and virtual. 

Deciding to return to in-person worship as normal and to come back to the church building may not come to fruition for many years for some people due to safety and health protocol concerns.  However, some churches will see returning to in-person as an essential choice, but it will be considerably distinctive from church to church.  

Many black churches are shifting and expanding to virtual worship opportunities through Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and Zoom.  All of these are platforms available via phone, tablet, or computer. One of the keys to online worship is to strategize by including the expected length of service.  The hybrid: in-person and virtual process to worship carries a towering significance.  It consists of intentional and innovative ways of gathering persons who go into the world to live lovingly and justly as servants of Jesus Christ.  

ADAPTIVE LEADERSHIP

Ronald Heifetz defines adaptive leadership as “the act of mobilizing a group of individuals to handle tough challenges and emerge triumphant in the end.”  Adaptive leadership is vital for black churches to deal with unsettling questions and be willing to learn new things.   This type of leadership entails hope-filled guidance, honesty, trust, relationship building, exploring new tactics, and inspiring creativity that moves black churches to a brighter future.  

Be encouraged, for the Lord is with us, always!

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Stephen Cook

Rev. Dr. Stephen T. Cook is the district superintendent of the West Jackson District, Mississippi Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. Stephen also serves as Dean of the Cabinet. He is honored to be elected as a clergy alternate for the SEJ 2020 Delegation. Stephen is a native of Carrollton, Mississippi. He is a graduate of Mississippi State University, Bachelor of Arts degree and Memphis Theological Seminary, Master of Divinity and a Doctor of Ministry degrees. He has been married to his beautiful wife, Erma for 22 years. They have the joy of being parents to two daughters: Sylvia (Joshua) and Endia. Stephen’s hobbies are reading, jogging, and playing basketball. One of his favorite scripture references is Proverbs 3: 5-6 NRSV: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

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