This article is part 2 of a complete guide for missions during COVID-19.
Identify needs quickly
The nature of a crisis does not allow the church an abundance of time to identify needs in the community. Identification of needs must be done quickly. Some needs will be easily identifiable due to the nature of the crisis. Additional needs can be identified through conversations with community leaders and by monitoring media coverage. Although some needs associated with a crisis are universal, other needs are unique to a particular community. Knowing your community well is a prerequisite to loving your community well, especially in a time of crisis.
As needs are identified, it may be helpful for church leadership to categorize and prioritize the needs. The following questions can guide church leadership in categorizing needs. Is this need unique to this crisis or is it a heightening/expansion of an existing need? How long do we believe this need will last? Will this need continue after the crisis has passed or will it cease when the crisis has passed? Will our short-term response to this need become a long-term response? How widespread is this need in our community? Is this need affecting our entire community or a particular area, age, group of people in our community? Prioritizing needs will depend greatly upon resources available within the church to address each need.
Respond to the need quickly
Once needs are identified and prioritized, church leadership will next mobilize the church to respond quickly. The call to respond may be extended to the entire church (i.e., food drive to replenish local hunger ministry/food bank), a specific group within the church (i.e., men to operate chain saws following a tornado), a particular ministry team/committee or small group, or families and individuals. Resources available within the church will greatly assist in not only prioritizing the needs but also in mobilizing different parts of the church to meet different needs. Clear communication of the need and plan of action is also incredibly important in mobilizing the church to respond quickly.
For many churches, responding to needs in a timely manner may involve a change in how the church typically operates. A church’s ability to effectively respond to needs during a crisis may be hindered if the structure of the church requires a lengthy process to make decisions. Fortunately, a crisis tends to necessitate change for everyone, including the church. If your church structure does not allow for ministry decisions to be made quickly, a crisis provides the opportunity for the pastor and a small group of leaders to discuss and formulate a quick response plan. Once the crisis has ended, the pastor and church leaders can have additional discussions regarding structural and procedural changes that will help the church efficiently and effectively serve the community at all times.