St. John’s Lutheran Church in Lafe, AR has served our community of less than 500 by providing various food and social opportunities throughout the years. We have also recently completed the Mid-South District’s first Gen2Gen network along with 4 other congregations from West Region. As the reality of COVID-19 hit home, our ability to reach members and our beloved community was forced to change. We had posted events on Facebook in the past, almost as a calendar, but never live-streamed worship nor used video for family ministry. St. John’s and Redeemer Paragould, AR are now working together to bring a message of hope to the Northeast Arkansas community while involving family ministry. As our nation begins to reopen, several new ministry opportunities emerged that we hope to continue.
Each week Pastor Kirk Neugebauer of Redeemer does a Monday Morning Encouragement on Facebook. Pastor Aaron Neugebauer of St. John’s has a devotion – with the help of his children – talking about Bible stories, how to read the Bible (context, context, context) and what this means in our everyday lives. On Wednesdays, both Pastor Aaron and Pastor Kirk partner to answer questions live from the NEA community. Pastor Kirk then does “Thank God It’s Thursday Prayer Night!” to pray together and to teach the Lord’s Prayer.
Sunday morning worship services continue at both St. John’s and Redeemer. We are thankful for the skeleton crews at both congregations who make this possible with technology and musical talents. Children of both congregations created artwork to use at all of our services during Holy Week. Their creations were displayed during the hymns. We even put together a video of children with their “palms” for Palm Sunday, “butterflies” for Easter Sunday, and “He is Risen” multigenerational video from both congregations.
So how have we connected with families during social distancing? We deliver activity packets to front porches/mailboxes (hand sanitizer and face masks used!) each week to support the conversations that would happen in the home as a result of Facebook Live posts. Forty family bags are delivered across Greene county to members and non-members who have requested them. My daughter Belle and I do videos to introduce art activity, read Bible stories to children, teach the parents to use resources, and do sing-a-long posts to St. John’s Parent Page. We also did 12-day Resurrection Egg Hunt leading up to Easter. Also included are talk sheets or activities to help parents cope and help their children adapt to fear, anxiety and so much change in our current state. Stacie Reddick from Redeemer has arranged Zoom activities to continue our once per month Youth Night and communication through GroupMe.
The life of the church looks different through the COVID lens. We are thankful to God for what He continues to do through our small community, the opportunity to focus on intentional family ministry, and pray for His protection and guidance as we modify and adjust.