Kingsway Community Church senior leader Jenni White is one of many church leaders adapting to the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis.

Churches across the world are grappling with the same question: how do we stay true to our identity as Jesus’ church in the uncertain circumstances that are rapidly evolving before our eyes?

Across the Fresh Hope movement, churches are quickly finding innovative ways to adapt their gatherings, particularly those with services of 100 or more people.

Coast Community Church on the Central Coast will continue to hold Sunday morning services at its two locations. Chairs will be set up differently to meet social distancing requirements and kids will go straight to their programs when they arrive to avoid mixing with others.

“We also want to put in place home churches for Sunday mornings,” said Kev Sheehan, Senior Pastor at Coast Community Church. “We are inviting members to host a home church where they can access a live stream from either location, worship together and enjoy the connectedness of community.”

“Interestingly, God has been doing a work in us regarding hospitality, and right now we have a significant opportunity to offer hospitality through our homes and to our neighbours, checking in on them and making sure they are okay. We want to make a difference through this.”

Northside Church in Sydney is moving from live to online services, although the real change has been deeper than that.

“The whole scenario has forced us to reorient the posture of our church to one of servanthood over services,” said Sam Haddon, Senior Pastor at Northside Church. “We’re focusing on ministering the word of God, connecting people and caring for them. We allocated each pastor a new function within that before we even started talking about what an online service would look like.

“We’ve registered 10-12 house churches across Sydney who will meet to worship, watch the live stream, take communion, share how they are doing, pray and care for one another. We ordered 1000 pre-packaged communion sets and are posting those out along with technology they might need and a one-pager on how to run a house church.”

“For our families we’ve created a discipleship picnic: set up a rug in your lounge room, download and use kids’ content from Google Drive, ask the kids how they have been this week and pray together.”

Kingsway Community Church in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire will be using an online platform that encourages engagement, not spectating, to live-stream services from both their locations. They are considering house churches and an outdoor gathering of their Jannali (Seechange) congregation.

“We are also focusing on vulnerable people groups,” said Jenni White, Senior Pastor at Kingsway. “We have identified the most vulnerable in our community and have buddied our people up with those most likely to be lost or overlooked. We are asking our people to stay connected with those they know who might be self-isolating, and are looking at putting together care packages to distribute through our network. We have connected with our local council to say we are praying.”

“We cannot allow the environment we are in to change who we are,” said Brook Stewart, Pastor at Seechange. “There is always the temptation when things go awry to start panicking and reacting, but as the Church that is not who we are.

“Fear is a great storyteller, but God has a story as well. We have to make sure we keep telling that story, responding to where we feel like God is taking us and what we feel like he is doing in the midst of this.”

By Emily Ferguson