Local churches still adjusting, looking to future

Thursday, April 23, 2020

SIKESTON — Since stay-at-home orders were issued the first part of April, local churches closed their doors and canceled events with many streaming services online. Local churches are still continuing to adjust while eyeing a lifting of the stay-at-home orders in May.

“I remember it was a Tuesday when I realized our church would have to stop meeting physically and I was panicked,” said Matthew Vroman, pastor at the First Baptist Church in Sikeston. “Then I had a God moment where God spoke to me and said this season will be a season of hope through me. I decided right then and there to accept this and working with our awesome church staff began developing content online.”

Like the First Baptist Church, many churches starting holding services online by using Facebook Live while others utilized online services like Zoom or Streamyard or even apps for smartphones.

“Although the technology can be challenging and we have had to think through how to approach our services, the hardest part is simply not being together physically,” said William Marshall, co-pastor at Grace Bible Fellowship in Sikeston. “You don’t realize how much you would miss that aspect of Christian fellowship until you aren’t able to enjoy it.”

Vroman said it has been challenging worrying about how his church community, and community at large, are doing.

“I know it will negatively impact so many people having to be alone for so long,” Vroman said. It is also challenging to know all the ways we can be a loving community to our church and community. Most of the pastors I know, are so concerned with their churches making a difference during this time.”

With church-goers staying at home, watching services online, many churches have seen a drop in giving. According to the National Association of Evangelicals, 65% of churches have seen a decrease in giving since mid-March.

“Our giving has been down, but we have actually been encouraged by people’s willingness to give online and mail in their support,” Marshall said. “We had set up online giving before the pandemic began, so we were glad we already had that in place.”

While there have been negatives to the stay-at-home orders, churches have seen many positives.

“We are connecting with people online in ways that is amazing,” Vroman said. “We are being more intentional about checking on one another. One online is a weekly children craft Bible class with the zany puppet BBQ the lion.”

Marshall said has also has seen a lot of involvement in their online Bible studies while he has seen church members learning even more how to reach out through a phone call or hand-written letter.

“The Lord is using this to teach us how much we need one another as brothers and sisters in Christ,” Marshall said.

With online services reaching new potential members, there could also be an increase in new members attending churches once the stay-at-home order is lifted.

“I do think that when the pandemic is over we will see some new members,” Marshall said. “The Lord often uses difficulties in our lives to make us think more about what matters the most. I believe that He will use the pandemic to help people see their need for new life through Christ.”

And as parishioners begin filing into churches in the coming weeks, it will be a new normal.

“We will not return to what we understood as normal, but the church will go on,” Vroman said. “The church is Jesus’ bride and it will continue to go forward. It will look different, but it is still the church.”

“I think for the rest of our lives, this season will be a reminder to us all to treasure the opportunities we have to fellowship together,” Marshall said. “My hope and prayer is that we will remember this lesson for years to come. May we never take a hug for granted again!”