Easter Sunday 2020 looked different for churches around the world. From the comforts of home, believers watched services, participated in communion and were reminded of the resurrection of the Savior centuries ago.
For 12Stone Church, though, physical barriers did not stop the work of the Holy Spirit amid this pandemic. With over 70,000 online participants Easter Sunday and over 400 texting in that they had prayed the salvation prayer, leaders at 12Stone Church eagerly worked on following up to pray with and for the new believers.
“You go into the biggest holiday in the church without the use of your building, and you feel like somehow you’re going to be handicapped. But God is so much bigger than that,” said senior pastor, Kevin Myers. “We had the most people seeing our service in our 32-year history, but what’s even more important than people watching is people taking a step. The Holy Spirit was creating moments in everyone’s homes.”
But 12Stone didn’t stop at Easter to meet the spiritual needs of people during this pandemic. Myers said 12Stone staff had divided a list of attendees, past and present, and attempted to contact each person and family on that list to pray over them.
“The great thing about this outreach is we got to hear all kinds of stories, and we could hear where people were in the moment — people whose family members are in the health care industry, people experiencing anxiety or any other prayer requests,” Myers said. “I think that was valuable. We had a personal attachment, which is vital right now.”
The 12Stone campuses have been helping monetarily where they can, participating in church-wide and individual campus ministries since the start of quarantine to meet the physical needs of people in their communities.
From food donations to care packages for first responders and healthcare workers, these Wesleyan campuses creatively invented ways to meet needs.
At one 12Stone campus, women are crocheting “Pocket Prayer Squares” as reminders to pray for healthcare professionals and providing gifts and cards to nurses in the local hospitals. At another, children are crafting hand-written notes for current COVID-19 patients stuck in the hospital, unable to see family members. Yet another has leadership coaches providing free coaching for small business owners. And each campus has participated in community-wide food outreach.
“We’ve tried to involve small business owners in our ministry process,” said Jason Berry, associate executive pastor. “Small business owners have been hit pretty hard, especially in the food industry, so we’ve tried to make sure we were paying attention to local businesses in the area that we could support while we’re supporting someone else.”
But perhaps the largest contribution currently coming from 12Stone is the church-wide effort to gather and sew personal protective equipment (PPE) to fill the looming needs of local hospitals. Going through nearly 4,500 PPE gowns each day, the Northeast Georgia Heath System anticipated a shortage.
When a nurse from a local hospital reached out to 12Stone requesting use of one of its campuses to sew the gowns out of painter’s plastic, 12Stone happily agreed, enlisting all eight campuses and providing volunteers to aid in this process. To date, 28,000 gowns have been made, and volunteers were working at each campus five days a week to meet this need.
“I think the greatest thing that has come out of this is the realization that the church is not a building,” said Berry. “And I think that with us going into the community in a time of crisis and seeing what the needs are and seeing how we can meet those in the moment as quickly and personally as possible is one of the greatest things the church can experience.
“People, in times of crisis, are increasingly open to share their stories with us, which gives us, while we’re filling physical needs, an opportunity to speak into their emotional and spiritual needs. When they share more, they receive more. And that just means that more ministry is being done than we could possibly imagine,” Berry said.