This article is part 4 of a complete guide for missions during COVID-19.
As the church serves its neighbors and community, issue the challenge that the ministry is more than a one-time event. Rather, consider it a continual process. International missionaries have shared the damage that results when a team makes a trip, builds relationships through service, then never returns. Similarly, those ministered to during a crisis are appreciative of the service, but we need to build a lasting relationship.
The unchurched are open to relational connections. These practical suggestions meet a real need; but more importantly, they open doors for relationships through the demonstrated compassion. On-going ministry to one’s neighbors and community facilitates deeper relationships that foster gospel witness.
The relationship developed through service can lead to gospel conversations. The ultimate motivation for the service is to create the opportunity to share how your neighbor can come to saving knowledge of Jesus. Through this process, you are accepting spiritual responsibility for your neighbor.
If your neighbor does not respond immediately, do not give up. Continue to show Christ’s love through your service. Commit to a long-term relationship, knowing that God is using your service to draw your neighbor to Himself.
Here are some practical suggestions to help you follow-up with the ministry to your neighbor:
- Ask how you can pray for them, then communicate regularly that you are praying for the need and ask for updates on how God has answered.
- Be an encourager. Times of crisis affect people in different ways, and it may be that an encouraging word gives hope during this time.
- Invite them to your virtual church services. Host a Facebook watch party and invite your neighbor to watch with you.
- Capitalize on common interests. Consider ways to build the relationship using hobbies or mutual activities. For example, if you and your neighbor both like to fish, plan a fishing trip.
- Enlist others to pray with you for your neighbor. Ask some others from your Sunday School class or small group to join you in praying for the neighbor.
- Introduce your neighbors to others in the church, especially if they are also neighbors, and invite them to also minister to the unchurched neighbor.
- Plan for the return to normal. The time will come when the church can return to its regular corporate gatherings. Consider events that your neighbor may be open to attending, such as Vacation Bible School for his children or a Wild Game Dinner. Use the multiple relationships developed to invite them to Sunday School and worship.