As COVID-19 causes churches to cancel services, effective congregations in these weeks will be measured less by how many people we can gather, and more by how deeply we can send our people into our communities to (wisely, cautiously, hopefully) serve and bear the burden of our neighbors.
With that in mind, here are six ways we can be good neighbors during the COVID-19 crisis:
1. Ask good questions
In a crisis this big, people are scared, confused and looking for people who care about how they’re really doing. With that in mind, when you see people in your neighborhood, don’t rush inside right away; ask questions that give them space to know they’re heard, such as:
“How are you feeling like this will affect you?” “What’s holding you together right now?”
“If there was one thing I could do for you this week to help, what might that be?”
2. Spare a square (of toilet paper)
Grocery stores and supermarkets are facing severe shortages of cleaning supplies, sanitary items (like toilet paper, paper towels, disinfectant and hand sanitizer). Many in your congregation likely have these items under their sinks or in their cupboards. Those items in your cleaning cabinets are not just for you; they’re for your neighbors too.
Head to your neighbors’ houses with a bag or bin of surplus supplies, and check if they have what they need. If they don’t, either give some of what you have, or take a quick trip to the supermarket to help them restock.
3. Schedule a meal or grocery drop-off
School cancellations are causing kids in our communities to go without nutritious food, and workplace challenges are forcing many parents to lose either income or childcare, which causes greater financial strain and less time to make meals. Those in high-risk categories (such as those with respiratory issues, the elderly and individuals with heart problems) are facing risks in getting to the grocery store.
If you and yours are healthy, reach out to those around you and ask if you can pop by with a meal later that day or week or ask them when might be a good time to drop off grocery essentials. If nothing else, you could order your neighbors a pizza to be delivered to their door. Nobody says no to pizza (just be sure to note any allergies or dietary restrictions before you dial your local pizza place).
4. Invite them to join with your church online or in some other form
Isolation breeds loneliness and other challenges. If your church is finding ways to meet (whether online, through prayer initiatives or through service projects), invite your neighbors to jump in with you.
5. Pray fervently
Pray for wellness for those in our community and around the world. Pray for the sick and those most at-risk. Pray for wisdom for those who respond to the pandemic and its affects on our communities.
6. Keep a clear-eyed view of the situation and how you can help
This situation doesn’t need to cause panic, nor is it to be taken lightly. Keep an eye on the CDC website for more developments as they are available. Also keep your eye on communications from organizations like school districts, hospitals, food pantries and other community response teams to see how you can be wise while also jumping in together to serve.
7. Let your church know how they can help you organize to serve your neighbors
If you or your neighbors have specific needs, need more information or even have prayer requests or thoughts about how to help, reach out to your local church and see if they might be willing and able to help you mobilize a response to this challenging time.
Our conviction is that every moment, every hour, every day of this crisis presents us with new opportunities to learn how to move into our neighborhoods and love the people God’s invited us to love. For more information on The Wesleyan Church’s response to Covid-19, visit wesleyan.org/covid-19-hub.
Ethan Linder serves as pastor of hospitality, collegians and young adults at College Wesleyan Church in Marion, Indiana.