Communicating hope in the Coronavirus

So in this mess we’re in, it seems that God is at work afresh. Its no surprise really that he can turn self isolation on its head. Jesus in his life chose self- isolation, rejection and death in exchange that we might enjoy community, acceptance and life. So lets now think about how we communicate more effectively online.

I wrote here about Offering hope in times of crisis this looks at how being relational in our online evangelism is essential. Here are some different ways of communicating hope that I’ve seen recently…

As we offer hope in a crisis lets ask some questions. Imagine you’ve never been to church. What is it like to enter an evangelistic event or church online for the first time? What are the How relational are our meetings? How can we make what we do even more relational?

I’m not advocating breaking any social distancing rules. I’m advocating that we stop and pause and remember how we used to share the good news with our friends. Lets walk through what we used to do. We’d stop and pray for them. With plenty of time, we’d invite them to an upcoming event. We wouldn’t invite them two minutes before. We’d go to the event with them. Then we’d chat afterwards and maybe even talk with them a few days later. So its worth thinking through how you make those connections during the event. How you plan church so that when seekers come along, you are as warm as possible.

There are so many platforms that can be used; Live Streaming, Youtube and facebook live can have an enormous reach. Conference apps like Zoom can be great for connecting groups large or small. The advantage of conference apps is that they are face-to-face interaction. Conference apps give you a shared communal space. There is room though to use a combination of both.

We’re more connected than ever before but does that mean seekers are hearing our message? Roger Carswell says that evangelism is sharing the gospel with people that are listening. Take time to reflect on your events, your church. Are our events just simply transmitting a message? Or are they communicating to a broken world that is listening? In our current state of internet saturation its even more important that we work on our communication. What would it look like in COVID19 to run events where we are sharing the gospel to people that are listening? What would it look like to engage on a high level of relational opportunity?

.Consider these 5 points on attention span whilst planning events…

1. You’re 10 times more likely to switch off during a conference call than in a conference.

2. Recommended time of engagement for a talk on on Facebook live is 10-15 minutes.

3. Marketers have 10 seconds to capture and engage an audience before they scroll down or click away. If there’s no engagement after 30 seconds, 33% of viewers will likely stop watching. If there’s no engagement after 1 minute, 45% of viewers will likely stop watching.

4. Optimal group discussion happens in groups of 4 so, keep your group discussion small.

5. Social media platforms and video hosting sites have their own best practices for optimal length. In general, they seem to favor shorter uploads.

Considering these points we need rethink our events. Keep them engaging, interactive, use interviews, testimonies, short videos and shorter length talks. Guests might be present, but are they really listening? If you’d like to think about presenting in an engaging way that keeps attention even in a preoccupied society then read our guest blog from Bekah Wilson From the classroom to the computer.

Here are some great examples of evangelism online during COVID!9.

1. Italy

Giovanni Donato from Chiesa Cristiana Biblica di Siena in Italy shares. “In the last year or so we’ve seen many South Americans who started coming to our church. It all began with a Colombian couple who became Christians about two years ago. As a consequence, their life is being transformed. They also started sharing the good news with others. Before the coronavirus hit Italy we were having regular discipleship meetings with them. Then the Covid-19 adventure started. Rather than seeing this as a limitation, we tried to think of how it could become an opportunity for the gospel. We kept meeting with this group for Zoom Bible studies in Spanish language. We then thought that we could open these meetings to others as well, who knows if somebody else would join? What happened next was amazing! We organized an event on Saturday night at 9pm. Out friends invited their friends and relatives to join the meeting. But what is amazing is that these friends and relatives live on the other side of the world! At first it looked like a closed door for the gospel. But we soon realized it was actually a wide-open door. So we invited a guest speaker to join us Tomàs Guzmàn, an ex football player from Paraguay. He had played in Italy for many years before retiring recently. It doesn’t matter that he now lives in Paraguay because he only needs a Meeting ID to join a Zoom call. So, here we are, a small-ish local church in Siena. Organizing evangelistic events in Spanish every Saturday night. Events attended by people who live in; Italy, Paraguay, Argentina and Colombia. Who said that this virus was causing churches to close? We’re open now more than before, by the grace of God.”

2. Norway

IFES students in Laget NKSS, Norway have been putting on events called “Grill a Christian” there is a panel of people who are willing to answer any question that the audience send them. This event was done through Facebook Live. Many students and guests have attended these.

3. Serbia

IFES students in Eus Crna Gora, Serbia put on an event “How to find peace in a turbulent time”. Samuil Petrovski recorded the talk, then he released the video on You tube and Facebook. He then followed this up with a live event on Zoom with a 15 minute talk and Q&A. They’re finding that at their student meetings more people are joining than ever before. They’re getting requests for recordings. So they record all the meetings & send them to students who couldn’t attend.

4. Ireland

IFES Students in CUI Ireland put on a Conversation with Jeremy Marshall this event through Facebook live. Jeremy Marshall is the former CEO of the UK’s oldest private bank, C Hoare & Co. He spent many years in the banking world which led him to travel across the world, including many years working on Wall Street. Yet, it all blew apart as Jeremy was diagnosed with terminal cancer. His life was flipped upside down and as we enter this season of uncertainty around us, we want to hear from him about where he grounds his Hope and how we can have Hope in Life’s Hurt. You can watch the video here. Whilst Universities were closing and there was panic and confusion. The CU were able to offer Hope. This event was well attended and many have seen the video since.

Helen from Ireland has been meeting with a student for months. Each week they meet in a café and use some simple evangelistic Bible studies. Social distancing isn’t stopping them now! Instead they now meet via a conference app every week. This is what Helen said. “Something I loved was how *D didn’t settle for easy answers about Jesus. He had lots of questions of his own. But he also really wanted to know why we believed what we did about Jesus. My favourite question was ‘OK so if you actually believe that Jesus is God, what’s the next step for life?'”

Here are some other ideas…

A Certain Brightness, an excellent blog written by Philippa Wilson. The name is based on this verse Psalm 34: 5. “They looked to him and were brightened, and their faces were not ashamed”. It’s based on the idea that it’s in looking to Jesus we find light in the darkness. Whatever we may experience, whatever darknesses life might hold- it is in looking to Christ we find warmth, and light and glory. And hopefully, this blog will do a little to help me, and maybe others, do that. 

“Looking for hope in a COVID19 world” these excellent short videos produced by Tim Dennis. These are difficult times, and likely to get tougher as the weeks go on. For now, we need to cling to hope, but what is your hope in?

We’d love to hear your stories of relational online evangelism during COVID19. Please share them with us and also join us at our next event. Offering hope in a time of crisis Q&A panel. We’ll have a panel of church leaders and evangelists sharing their ideas. In my next post, I’m going to be sharing some examples from around Europe of how hope has been communicated in the Coronavirus.

Published by Nay Dawson

Nay works with IFES Europe as their Regional Training Co-ordinator, training staff and students across Europe. She works on the European Regional leadership team for the charity. She was the Revive Extra Plenary Director for one of largest Student Conferences in Europe. Nay is the founder of Passion for Evangelism. PfE is a network of creative, public female speakers. Helping hundereds of women grow in confidence in public communication. Nay set up an initiative called Community in a crisis. CIAC has been helping churches and charities across Europe get online during the pandemic.

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