This collection of resources is meant to help clergy of any designation in the Great Plains Conference practice their ministry as effectively and efficiently as possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clergy Excellence Conversations
The Clergy Excellence team invites all clergy to join a series of conversations via Zoom hosted by the Rev. Ashlee Alley Crawford and the Rev. Shelly Petz to identify new realities, discuss questions, and encourage the heart of pastors during this new, uncertain season in the life of ministry. The conversations will be around a common theme, “Ministry in Liminal Time,” and will include a specific focus for each day. Being in a “liminal time” means that we’re on the threshold of transition, from the way things used to be to…well, we just don’t know yet. While this is a season of disruption and loss, it is also full of opportunity and growth. We want to acknowledge both.
Each session is being recorded and will be shared in a podcast format, which you can find here. Take a look at what’s being discussed:
- Creativity, Comparison, and Coping—a panel of 4 Great Plains pastors join Ashlee and Shelly for conversation about these three tensions during this new season. Listen here.
- Mental Health Check in (May 21, 3 p.m.)—Seanne Larson Emmerton, a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed independent mental health provider with a special interest in spirituality and health invites clergy to join this conversation where we will explore best practices for mental health resilience during this liminal time with a focus on ways to renew and sustain energy. There will be time to examine your own internal house of wellness and gently identify next steps. Register here.
- Practical Questions for New Ways of Ministry (June 4, 10:30 a.m.)—Several Great Plains pastors join Ashlee and Shelly to identify some of the questions—and opportunities–during this new season! Register here.
- More will be scheduled every other Thursday at 10:30 a.m.
Ashlee and Shelly will introduce each subject, occasionally have a guest join in the conversation, and will facilitate a discussion among the clergy present. You’re welcome to join the call and share in discussion, just listen, or listen to the recorded session following the live conversation here. (I presume that they will all be listed at greatplainsumc.org/podcasts)
Feel free to reach out with possibilities or questions to Ashlee, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Shelly, email@example.com.
- Reopening: Why Reopening a Church is Different — The Rev. Alex Shanks of the Florida Conference writes that everywhere we turn, people are talking about reopening. Should churches simply follow the same guidelines regarding reopening as other institutions? I believe there are practical principles and theological reasons why reopening our church campuses requires a different kind of thinking. The church shouldn’t be looking to sidestep the guidelines. The church shouldn’t be simply reacting to what others are doing. The church should be leading the way by modeling a method of safety for others to follow.
- Innovation as the outcome of chaos
- Resources from Texas Methodist Foundation
- The unique opportunity churches have to respond to societal change
- How to be and do church more effectively
- Questions for Embracing a New Future
- Adaptive Change — The COVID-19 pandemic may have changed the world forever. The priority of leaders must be to set aside confidence in their current playbook as quickly as possible, write a new one that honors their mission and the communities they serve, and make the most of their organization’s assets — their people, financial capital, and social capital, leaning on relationship and trust.
- Digital Discipleship Coaching — Discipleship Coaching happens best in one-on-one situations. Most people, no matter how long they have been in church, have never had a one-on-one conversation with anyone about their spiritual growth. With everything suddenly being forced online, now is a perfect time to schedule a conversation. People in our congregations need the connection and the encouragement to continue their discipleship journey.
- Leading the small church through a pandemic — In rural communities, the local church has a special responsibility as one of the few permanent stakeholders. In communities where there are few anchor institutions, the rural church can serve a pivotal role in the community response to COVID-19.
Check out these tips for preaching virtually from the Florida Conference's Institute of Preaching.
- View a one-hour webinar recording.
- Download a slideshow with tips for preaching online.
- Learn to preach virtually, not to be virtually preaching.
Self-Care and Resiliency
Staff-Pastor-Parish Relations Committee
The conference hosted a conversation centered on good endings and good beginnings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Online Clergy Survey
To help the conference better understand how our clergy are doing amid the pandemic and to help discern the need for current and future resources, the pastors of the Great Plains Conference have been asked to take part in a brief survey each month to allow for the tracking of trends and to identify changes over time.
Download results from the April survey.
Understanding Your Online Worship Attendance — What do those “views” on Facebook really mean? How do you know exactly how many people really watched your online worship service? There are some analytics you can rely on more so than others to help you understand how many people are joining you for worship. Todd Seifert, conference communications director, tries to help pastors and congregations grasp what their reach truly is while people worship from their homes. Read the blog.
Online Participation — Carey Nieuwhof shares some ideas of what to do about online worship participation.
For Your Consideration
Thanks to stories shared from across the Great Plains Conference, here are some strategies some of our churches are using, shared here in hopes they provide inspiration and share ideas with other congregations. More information about each of these topics is available in this PDF document, available for download and printing.
If you are going to stream or record your worship service with any music included, you must have the following:
- Music license — Either from CCLI, OneLicense or another company, this license allows you to project words from songs covered by that license. Note that not all songs are covered by all licenses.
- Streaming license — If you broadcast beyond the walls of your church, such as on YouTube or Facebook Live, you are a broadcaster and must have this license. Again, CCLI, OneLicense and other companies provide this service.
- Livestreaming — Many of our churches have started livestreaming services, either from the sanctuary with only the number of people present required for the broadcast or with the pastor uploading a sermon or devotion from home. Before you decide to stream, consider the available equipment and your Internet upload speed. We recommend you stream using a computer with a hard-wire Internet connection and an upload speed of at least 5 Mb/second.
- Recording — If you don't have the ability to livestream, recording and posting to either Facebook, YouTube or other kind of streaming website is perfectly acceptable.
- Including others — If you record, consider having people in your congregation record themselves reading scripture, saying a prayer or reading some liturgy. Have them send you that video, and you combine it, along with your sermon, into a single video. It's a great way to include more people in your congregation.
- Using your phone or tablet — You have to use what you have available. If you do not have a camera and laptop to use for streaming or recording, your best option may be to use Facebook Live. Position the camera so your face meets it head-on and within 3 feet, unless you are using an external microphone. Viewers often will put up with grainy video, but poor audio is a quick turn-off.
- Sharing ideas — We are compiling examples of churches using innovative ways to stay connected or to connect with new people. View the latest examples.
To steer clear of a need for copyright licensing or streaming licenses, you will have to use exclusively royalty-free music. And that means you must stick to music considered to be "public domain." This story from United Methodist News Service tells you how to find public domain music.
Download piano accompaniment recordings for about 200 songs found in the United Methodist hymnals.
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. and the Appointive Cabinet have discussed the sacrament of communion and have determined that to provide effective pastoral care, the practice of online communion can be an essential means of spiritual comfort and strength for the body of Christ.
Read the guidelines developed for online communion. You'll also find links to:
Some churches do not have access to online giving locally, so the Great Plains Conference is pleased to offer this service to our congregations. Churches must fill out an online giving enrollment form and turn it in to the conference office. Then, churches may share the link from the button below with their parishioners.
The Kansas Area United Methodist Foundation and the Nebraska United Methodist Foundation have provided a series of videos meant to share how people can help by giving to their churches now.
You'll find additional videos and more on our page dedicated to Giving.
Funerals During the Pandemic
The document linked below has been approved by the bishop and Appointive Cabinet. It is a working outline of best practices for protecting the health and well-being of the community to handle funerals and memorial services during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is not written to be pastoral. In Kansas, a 10-person limit does not apply to employees or military service members gathered to conduct such a service. However, the number of attendees, including family and friends, must not exceed the 10-person limit.
The document prepared by the bishop and Cabinet expects that clergy will handle these delicate conversations with their mourners with professional sensitivity and empathy. It is written from the general perspective of a mainline United Methodist Christian in Kansas and Nebraska. Please contextualize to your community as needed. Download the funeral document.
The Great Plains Conference has provided all of its clergy with access to Zoom licenses for 24 months to help not only communicate during the pandemic but also to facilitate communication in what is sure to be a different world on the other side of the current crisis. The Congregational Excellence team is providing more one-on-one instruction on how to best use this tool for ministry. Contact your district superintendent for details.
Zoom does provide some basic how-to videos to help you get started. Some that we recommend are:
- Zoom 101 — Your account has been created, so you can jump to about 1:30 of this video for how to download the user-friendly app.
- In Meeting Controls — This walks you through some of the basic functions for Zoom meetings.
- Scheduling Meetings via Gmail — Learn how a scheduled meeting automatically appears on your Google calendar.
- Scheduling Meetings via Outlook — Learn how a scheduled meeting automatically appears on your Outlook calendar.
- Managing Participants — Zoom has controls to allow you to mute others, share screens and other valuable features for group meetings. This video provides info about many of the settings available within the Zoom platform.
- Scheduling a Webinar — How to use this feature, including how the registration system works.
- Audio and Video Issues — How to join and configure any cameras or microphones you want to use for your Zoom meetings.
- Sharing Your Screen — How to share your screen and what kinds of content can be used in a Zoom meeting.
- Polls — You can conduct polls among the people who are participating in your meeting. Here's how.
- More information and downloadable how-to PDFs can be downloaded from https://support.zoom.us.