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Connecting with the unplugged

Unplugged find love with sidewalk art

Are you developing offline communications for those members and neighbors who are unplugged from electronic devices? Here are some ideas to increase connection.


ERIC SEIBERLING

Resource UMC

During the COVID-19 crisis, social distancing is crucial to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. While internet adoption and the growth of smartphone usage over the past five years have made digital access almost ubiquitous, offline communication still helps amplify your church communication efforts.

Here are several ideas to help you connect with the unplugged:

ESTABLISH CALLING CIRCLES

Churches have used calling trees and prayer chains since the advent of the telephone. Break your church into groups of six to eight people, and create a list of phone numbers for each group to call. The first person will call the next on the list and share a kind word, a prayer, or information. The last person on the list should call the initial caller to complete the circle. 

USE CONFERENCE CALLS TO STAY CONNECTED

Churches can also set up a conference call to pray and meet as a church or small group. It’s as simple as dialing a number and entering the provided PIN number. (Hosts of the call have a few more steps to get started. Easy instructions vary by service.) Send out an invitation using Google Calendar or Outlook. After accepting the meeting, people can choose to add it to their calendar and get a reminder 15 minutes before the call. 

SHOWER PEOPLE WITH HANDWRITTEN CARDS AND LETTERS

In this time of social distancing, handwritten letters and cards can create a great connection with people in your church and community. (Be mindful to wash your hands prior to composing the note.) Using your church directory, divide the membership into manageably-sized lists. Invite small groups, youth groups, and others to adopt members. Write and mail a short personalized note to help the recipient feel appreciated and connected.

BROADCAST TEXT MESSAGING SERVICE

Given the broad adoption of smartphones and mobile technology, bulk text messaging services can play a role in keeping people connected. Use it for critical messages or reminders that apply to the whole church. Some group text providers allow you to create groups for more focused messaging. Ask people to opt-in, and keep them interested by limiting the delivery frequency and content of the messages. Always offer a way for people to opt-out in every message (“Text STOP”). 

ROBOCALL FOR GOOD

We’re all familiar with unwanted marketing robocalls that tend to happen while we’re working or spending time with loved ones. But churches can use automatic calling to help spread the word about key events and updates to the congregation. Make sure people opt-in to this communication. Respect boundaries by offering an easy way to opt-out of them and by only sending one message per week. However, in emergencies, the increased frequency may be acceptable. 

DELIVER SUPPLIES TO NEIGHBORS

Offer to pick up supplies for shut-in members of limited mobility. When delivering them, insert a short note to let them know the church cares. 

“EGG” SOMEONE’S HOUSE

This is not throwing eggs at someone’s house, but creating an egg hunt for your neighbor — Easter Day has passed, but Easter season continues. Find plastic eggs in the clearance aisles or online. Fill them with individually (non-melting and pet-friendly) wrapped candy, small toys, school supplies, or kind notes. Hide them in your neighbor’s yard while they’re out or have turned in for the night. Post a sign notifying them that they’ve been “egged.” Make sure to tell them how many eggs you left (so they find them all), and don’t make the hidden treats too hard to find. Sign the note from the church and express that you love and appreciate them. This can be a fantastic distraction for young families whose kids are attending online classes for hours during the day.

ORGANIZE A NEIGHBORHOOD TALENT PARADE

Consider organizing a talent show that rotates, house to house, on the sidewalks in the neighborhood. Ask each family to create a skit, sing a song, or do a magic trick. Schedule “performers” and send a postcard or place a note on the porches or doors of neighbors to announce when the “talent parade” will happen, asking them to stay on their porch or at the far end of their driveway to watch. Performers should maintain appropriate physical distancing during the parade.

LEAVE ENCOURAGING MESSAGES IN THE DRIVEWAY OR SIDEWALK

Buy sidewalk chalk and unleash your inner artist to leave encouraging messages and artwork on neighborhood driveways or sidewalks. Make sure to sign the message from the church. This is a great way to get kids involved in sharing the love of God with your neighborhood.

Regardless of the situation, churches need to strengthen ties with all members and the community. These ideas used in combination with those to connect with the digitally “plugged-in” can help the church see its way through difficult times apart — whether pandemic or bad weather. One day, the COVID-19 crisis will end. Don’t lose the momentum of all of the creative offline and online strategies you’ve adopted. Remember, the goal is to be where your people are, online and offline.

Start planning for life after COVID-19 now so your church can move quickly and continue to thrive. 

~ Eric Seiberling is part of a husband-wife duo working to help the church embody “1 > 99” at brokensheep.com. He leverages his 20+ years of marketing and consulting experience to help churches “baptize” and use secular techniques to be more effective at reaching the lost, the least, and the last for Jesus Christ.