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What’s Working for Vineyard Church Planters in the Midst of COVID-19

Multiply Vineyard

Multiply Vineyard

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We reached out to a few of our newest church plants to learn how they are continuing to “gather”, build their teams, and disciple the people around them in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hope you find these ideas inspiring and encouraging and that you’ll join us in praying for these church planters and their churches!

Breakout Rooms

As a young church plant, having only met 6 Sundays in person so far, continuing to foster community and relationships is key for us.

What has worked best for us is using the group breakouts in online Zoom meetings. At the end of our gatherings, which are shorter than a normal in person gathering, we break into groups of 4-6 people that each have a group leader to facilitate. We talk through a couple discussion questions. Then each group leader ends their group time in prayer. We’ve found that about a third of our people stick around for the groups. We encourage those who are not sticking around to take the questions with them to use to reflect during the week.

Many people have reported back that through the group discussions, they've gotten to talk with and engage with more people in the church than they have in the past.
Ryan Kenny
Midtown Vineyard Church - Fresno, CA

Facebook Live Q & A

Our little rural church plant is 11 months in and we felt like we had just hit our groove. There was a spiritual breakthrough in our community, and the health of the church was blossoming. My husband and I were finally comfortable calling ourselves pastors. The first few years of church planting has a lot of roller-coaster feelings and spiritual attacks, and we felt like we were back up.

Then we saw COVID-19 move its way into our state. Our government was one of the first to enact a stay-at-home order. We joined the hundreds of thousands of churches and went all digital. Though it was difficult, we were shocked to see how many people that don't attend our physical church began to attend online.

We've started doing a Monday night "Hanging with the Jacksons" Facebook Live every week. This conversation is a place for us to share more of the nuggets from our sermon prep that didn't make it in the 30-minute sermon for Sunday.

Then on Tuesdays, I often go live from my personal Facebook page and we talk about the virus. I have a medical day job, so I try to give practical advice. Some weeks we’ve experienced tons of engagement on these.

We also try to send a text or message to each family in our church community every week or two, sometimes simply to ask "How are you? or How is your family?" We have to increase the number of digital "touches" because, for now, the physical touch is gone.
Danelle Jackson Headshot
Danelle Jackson
The Harvest Vineyard Church - Martinsville, IL

Daily Devotional & Weekly Connect Calls

Mondays through Fridays we are collaborating to produce a daily devotional which includes a 3-5 minute video, a verse, a story, a question and a prayer for viewers.

Then Wednesday evenings, in place of our usual weekly dinner party, we are meeting on Zoom to catch up and trade stories from isolation.

For our Sunday services, we moved to a produced Facebook Watch Party. We are recording using the best equipment we can afford: an iPhone 11s with external Shure mics, and editing with Final Cut Pro. We do:
- A 30-45 second welcome video from my wife and I, explaining what’s going to happen during our time together.
- One song, recorded by the worship leader and her husband
- A 10-15 minute talk with 1-3 questions interspersed within so that people can respond in the comments.
- Relevant quotes, scriptures, questions in the comments as the video goes live
- A Zoom call to follow, in which we connect and catch up as a group, as well as discuss the topic. We offer to provide the log in link to anyone who direct messages us.

Our reach has grown considerably, and engagement seems good. We’re always thinking in terms of next steps, so we’ve got an Alpha and a virtual open mic night planned.
Andy Race
Lamoille Valley Vineyard Church - Hyde Park, VT

Scripture Reading Plan & Prayer Guide

We were absolutely caught off guard by the impact of this virus. I have read a number of books on church planting, but not one on church-planting in the midst of a pandemic. I have often wondered what it must have been like at the beginning of the church. They had no manual, no "how-to" book. No wonder Jesus said to wait for the Holy Spirit. Without him, this is truly impossible. We are learning all over again how to keep in step with the Spirit.

We’ve been using Zoom for our weekly Sunday worship and Wednesday prayer meetings because we did not want to lose out on continuing to build community. We thought that if people were just watching us without the opportunity to interact with each other we would lose our momentum in building relationships. We have been able to pray with each other and encourage each other. However, we have found that getting someone new to join a Zoom meeting is virtually impossible. So, we are planning to try another approach where we will post the sermon on Facebook, YouTube, and our website at our posted meeting time. Then after viewing, people can choose to log on to Zoom for a time of communion, prayer, and fellowship. This may give others in our local community a chance to connect with us after checking us out first.

We also put together a scripture reading plan and prayer guide for the week leading up to Easter. We posted it on our website and ran a Facebook ad to share it with our local community. The idea was to give families an opportunity to walk through the story in the Scriptures together while they are restricted to their homes. It is our hope that people were exposed to the story of Jesus and also became aware of our church's presence and availability in the community.
Dan Sanders
Dan Sanders
Christ The King Vineyard Church, Spring, TX

Card Writing and Book Clubs

We started dreaming about planting a church in November and by the end of February, we had sold our house, bought a new home, and moved. We felt God’s leading to call all the people we knew to have church at our home. Amongst moving dust and boxes, a church was born. Later that week, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the nation and stay at home orders were issued.

Pivoting quickly to online services meant that we would not have a normal start. My husband Alex and I had planted a church in the 90s with 5 children aged 6 and under. All we had learned then was not what was going to move us forward now.

We now have 3 zoom groups, 2 book clubs and 1 apprenticeship class meeting online. Instead of meeting people one on one, we’ve been able to deliver groceries to homes affected by the Coronavirus. For Easter, we delivered Easter baskets to the homes of the 3 children that had come to that first Sunday. It took most of the afternoon because those families were hungry for conversation even through physical distancing! Sending written personal cards has also been one of our focuses. We have sent cards to nursing home residents, to special need adults, and any shut-ins we know about.

We will continue to rely on God’s leading as to how this Covid-19 church plant will grow!
Donna Ackermann
Donna Ackermann
Vineyard Longmont, Longmont, CO

Online Alpha Course

Since the quarantine started, I’ve been wrestling with how we would reach those who are far from Jesus. We, like everyone else, scrambled to get our Sunday gathering and small groups online, but my passion really is to reach lost people. It’s really hard to meet new people when you can’t really socially interact.

People have taken more interest in spiritual things now that they have more time with their own thoughts and death has been forced in front of them. I thought perhaps people would respond to Alpha, since it gives people a space to share their own beliefs as they hear the Christian perspective. The bar is low for people to try because they don’t have to leave home, which leaves them with lots of control over their own environment. Running Alpha online can be super easy and because you don’t need a lot of volunteers and nobody has to make any food, so the cost is low. I think doing Alpha online has real potential.

Our particular context is very religious though. Even those who are lost and need to have a real encounter with Jesus have just enough Christian understanding to keep them from a deep encounter. It’s hard to get people in Altoona to connect to something that’s not a normal church service. I believe in Alpha enough that I’m trying to crack that nut, even though it’s tough.
Derek Heilman
Vineyard Altoona, Altoona, PA

The views expressed on this site or in this media are those of the speaker(s), author(s), or contributor(s), and do not necessarily represent the views of Vineyard USA or any of its Regions, Ministries or Initiatives. For more information, see the
Vineyard USA disclaimer here.

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