In times of uncertainty, churches are presented with an opportunity to respond either of two ways: they can flourish and thrive in the face of adversity or they can cave in to the pressures. One way a church can advance as God moves in the midst of challenging times is to dig its heels into the ground and stand firm on its ministry’s godly mission.
Serving Outside the Service
There has been no greater time for Rolling Hills Church in El Dorado Hills, California to live out its top three realities of its Mission Statement than in the COVID-19 era.
“They went from shifting their primary focus of doing a service on the weekend to serving people during the week,” said Andrew Statezny, CDF Capital Leadership Capital Pioneer.
When California Governor Gavin Newsom issued the “Safer at Home” order in mid-March, churches across the state frantically raced to figure out how to stay relevant in their communities.
“They went from shifting their primary focus of doing a service on the weekend to serving people during the week.”—Andrew Statezny
Rolling Hills Church was able pivot quickly and rely on components of their church’s mission to impact El Dorado Hills in great ways.“What Rolling Hills Church has done very well is being the church the other 167 hours of the week outside of their church services,” Andrew continued.
Like many communities of faith, Rolling Hills Church, has now utilized online streaming to produce quality content so their members can still experience their services via the web. But their church leadership also realized quickly that to make a greater impact during this crisis, they had to do more. They had to find ways to serve their congregation and their community beyond digital sermons and worship.
“They’ve repurposed their present staff to pastor online,” Andrew said. “They’re pastoring on Facebook. They’re pastoring on Instagram. They’re pastoring on YouTube. They’re pastoring on their website, text messages, phone calls. They even set up a 24-hour text prayer line.”
Rolling Hills has simply positioned themselves as an essential business of services.
When the governor’s order first went out, the Rolling Hills team responded swiftly in order to stay meaningfully engaged. Given that faith communities fall into the non-essential business category of society, the church had to find ways to stay relevant.
While the church usually averaged about 1,700 people attending, “They had 10,000–11,000+ devices joining them that weekend, in a matter of a 2-day turnaround,” Andrew explained. "They made that kind of pivot.”
The increase of online engagement positioned Rolling Hills to then shift and mobilize themselves toward becoming as “essential” as they could be. They began delivering food to those in their church and in their community who were immunocompromised. They delivered prescriptions to the elderly. Rolling Hills even found creative ways to virtually visit with people in their greater community who were lonely.
“They’re doing some really fun stuff,” Andrew said. “They’re driving by and celebrating birthdays for their church members. They’ve even got their worship pastor pulling up in front of people’s houses with his guitar and singing a song of worship and telling people, ‘We love you.’”
“There’s no better time for the church be alive than in the middle of the biggest crisis of our lifetime.”— Andrew Statezny
Because of Rolling Hills’ repurposed focus of practical service, Andrew noted that their financial giving has actually increased during this crisis. They’ve found that their church and the community at large are wanting to be a part of something greater. Since their spending has shifted toward supporting “essential” ministry opportunities in the community, people have been more inclined to give.
“There’s no better time for the church be alive than in the middle of the biggest crisis of our lifetime,” said Andrew.
Rolling Hills also realized, even more so now, that a lot of people are sitting in front of their devices, seeing life unfold. As needs arise, they’re finding that many of their church members don’t want to sit idle, doing nothing.
“They’ve done a great job of giving practical things for their people to do that matter,” Andrew said.
The leadership at Rolling Hills has been encouraging their members to gather food items and pantry items in their homes to box up as care packages for those who need them. They’re also providing meals for kids that were getting breakfast and lunch at their schools. Rolling Hills has simply positioned themselves as an essential business of services.
Connecting With People Every Day
Because of social distancing, the need for constant communication is also crucial during this COVID-19 season. With the limitations on public gatherings, people can easily slip through the cracks and get lost amidst the pandemonium of the pandemic.
“They do regular communication very well. They don’t let any like, comment, or share go by without pastoring that,” Statezny remarked. “They always thank people for participating in doing what they can.”
Church leaders, as well as those in other domains of society, have been asking what life post-virus will look like and what the new normal for churches will be. The reality is, life probably won’t return to what we’ve been used to.
“They don’t let any like, comment, or share go by without pastoring that.”—Andrew Statezny
Yes, there will be a new normal for society, but for churches, this new normal is an opportunity to make the Kingdom of God more visible in ways we haven’t seen in quite some time.
“I think Rolling Hills is going to continue to pursue what it means to be the church,” Andrew explained. “I don’t think they’re going to accept any normal. ‘The Kingdom of heaven is advancing, and forceful men take hold of it,’ the Bible says, and I believe that.”
Andrew continued, “I think there will be a group of leaders who’ll rise out of this and say, ‘I get what it means to pivot quickly and to minister to my community.’ Those are the ones who are going to be the influencers in this next era that we’re in.”
That next era is truly a drive toward meaningful engagement. So many great acts of service have happened in the church and in our society in so little time, that letting our foot off the gas would be a detriment to what God is doing right now. The church has been given an opportunity to partner with what God is doing outside of the walls of a building and make a meaningful impact for decades to come.
“This crisis has shown Rolling Hills that it’s not just about getting their service online,” Andrew said. “It’s about connecting with people every single day and praying with people every day and pastoring them every day. It’s about being vital in your community every day.”