Physical distancing is going to be very hard on our emotional health and well being. Being stuck at home with family is likely to increase crabbiness between family members and even increase potential for abuse. People who live alone are at risk of being isolated and may struggle with additional anxiety and depression as a result.
There is a kind of informal pastoral care that often naturally happens through in-person congregational events. If you can set up a structure that helps these interactions to continue during times of isolation, you can keep your congregation connected and bolster everyone’s well-being.
Your congregation is a unique constellation of unique people so the specific groups that work for you may be different than what works for other congregations. Here are some ideas to spark your own:
Create online check in times through out the week. If you’re online on Sunday morning you can do small group reflections as part of the service or “coffee hour” breakout rooms after the service. Set up a few times to drop in for anyone who wants to touch base.
Set up small group ministry online: Help your small group ministries (also known as chalice circles or covenant groups) get on to Zoom or a conference call service The same simple circle process works well online, just have each person (or the facilitator) invite someone else to go next since there’s no visible circle (more tips).
If you are starting new small group ministries, put spouses and partners in different groups. They’re getting enough "together time" right now.
Create a mid-week spiritual opportunity: An online spiritual time can work too--keep it simple.
A sample format might include a chalice lighting, check in, a reading or a meditation, a chance for each person to respond if they wish, a one word check out.
Other forms of spiritual practice work too! If your congregation has a yoga teacher, ask if they can lead something simple.
Reach out to those serving in health care professions. Ask them what they need—they may need their own group or just group chat if their schedules don’t line up.
Start a buddy system. People who live alone are at risk of being very isolated and may struggle with additional anxiety and depression as a result. Pair up your people who live alone so that everyone has someone who is checking in on them at least daily. Read our post with some ideas of important conversations for buddies to have with each other.
Parent support. Set up zoom or conference call drop in groups for parents or help them set up a small group ministry. Sometimes just sharing with other parents the frustration and ridiculousness of it all can help!
Connect generations. Older and isolated members can also connect with children which can make the family’s cabin fever a little better.
Weekly phone tree. Some very small congregations are also starting a weekly phone tree, just so they know everyone has been checked in with weekly.
Choir connections. Get the choir together online. They could even take turns singing solos to each other or sharing music they love.
Connect youth. Make sure the middle schoolers and high schoolers have a chance to connect online, even if they haven’t connected in awhile. Help the children have some connection to church including joys and concerns.
Just hang out! Set up informal hang out time--lunch chats, craft time, etc.
The care you offer each other as a congregation is vital. Being apart doesn’t mean we don’t need that care, we need it even more.
Follow the main pastoral care in pandemics page for more posts including on pastoral care teams, information for ministers, and information on physical care like dropping supplies off.
Holding Online Meetings for help in how to set up online gatherings.