One year later: How have churches in western Washington pivoted to continue the mission in a pandemic?
Washington Conference pastors answered, and nine themes emerged.
“We see how 2020 gave churches permission to try something new for one time, for a season or still continuing,” says Craig Carr, Washington Conference vice president for administration. “It’s uncomfortable to try new things, to go through suffering and struggles, yet this is how we grow.”
Reviving Prayer Ministry
Prayer has been an essential part of ministry for each church and took a variety of formats including teleconferences, Zoom videoconferencing calls and drive-by prayer ministry.
Monroe and Greater Seattle Filipino-American churches are drawing double or triple the normal attendance with prayer calls. Renton and Bonney Lake churches offered "Drive-By Prayers" for neighbors and then provided additional drive-up ministry encounters like Bonney Lake’s drive-through soup meals for 80-plus people.
Serving the Community
Emergency food distribution and health testing with medical providers resulted in thousands of families receiving weekly food from established or emergency food distribute sites, including Auburn City, Kent, Monroe, Poulsbo, Lewis County, Emerald City (Seattle), Maranatha (Seattle), Mount Tahoma (Tacoma), Grays Harbor, Port Angeles, Lynnwood and additional pop-up locations.
Auburn City Church prayed for 140 days for God to open the doors for emergency food distribution and now serves as a multisite distributor.
Encouraging Holistic Health
Churches encouraged healthy living. Bellevue Church emailed “Strength for the Week” health tips, while Lynnwood Church hosted a “Healthy Immunity” webinar with Mark Kinjo, a naturopathic doctor. Additionally, churches like Grays Harbor, responded to the call for emergency blood donation sites. Community clinics were limited, yet LifeBridge Church found ways to host a much-needed dental clinic.
Nurturing Ministry at Home
With an increase in home life, churches created virtual connections including family group check-ins, nightly family worships and music video challenges like the 40-person Living Vine Fellowship virtual choir, which now has a dozen YouTube music videos.
Oak Harbor Church started seven small groups and now have several friends of the church, including some from central California, who are preparing for baptism. The Ethiopian Church joined an international Bible study, provided weekly content and celebrated baptisms.
Schools pivoted just like churches, and enrollment increased especially at small schools with three or fewer teachers. Churches, including Edmonds, rallied to raise thousands of dollars to support tuition assistance and school finances.
Church support of note includes Bellingham Church, which opened an education camp offering in-person tutoring and school support for nine children and is now looking at reopening its school.
Seeking Racial Reconciliation
In continuing work for racial reconciliation, Emerald City Church hosted a peaceful 14-block march and rally with 13 area churches to call for racial justice and healing. Pastors and leaders further engaged in racial reconciliation through the Just Us podcast and local efforts. Eastside Fellowship created a Pages to Progress book club as part of their reconciliation journey.
Several churches used the time of closed physical doors to update their facilities. Emerald City and Lacey churches set up production studios, and Volunteer Park Church in Seattle overhauled its entryway. Federal Way Hispanic Church received their long-awaited building permit, while Puyallup Church is awaiting sanctuary occupancy.
When public playgrounds closed, Sequim Church discovered young mothers were interested in using their newly installed playground — an unexpected ministry!
Ministry collaboration took many forms. Mount Tahoma Church participated in a 12-church worship weekend. Refuge church plant is now offering Sabbath afternoon services in Volunteer Park Church. LifeBridge church plant partnered with Sunset Lake Camp, a member’s backyard and Tacoma Central’s gymnasium for monthly in-person services.
Open Door, Bellingham and Ferndale churches traditionally collaborate for Walk Through Bethlehem for 2,500 guests each December. Their virtual holiday family worship story time drew 4,000 views.
Nurturing Media Ministry
Media ministry was the biggest growth area between Zoom, livestreams, podcasts (five of which started in 2020) and even Bible study phone calls. Yong Bum Park, pastor of the Seattle Korean Church, has the most targeted international reach. His sermons are broadcasted via Adventist World Radio from Guam to China and North Korea.
The Edmonds congregation, like many others, went from zero to full-on media ministry. Forest Park Church in Everett saw an influx of willing media volunteers from teenagers to senior citizens. Poulsbo famously hosts Sabbath afternoon “potlucks” of conversation, and Eastside Fellowship adopted a preach-discuss format for increased interaction.
The biggest anticipated theme for 2021: reconnecting, whether virtually or in person, to rebuild a greater sense of community.