For the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention staff, despite a number of canceled events, ministry has continued in the midst of the stay-at-home order due to COVID-19.
“While the AZSBC offices have remained open, most of the staff members have been working from home since the middle of March and have been relying on electronic means of meeting and working,” AZSBC Executive Director David Johnson said. Biweekly staff meetings have continued by using Zoom.
“We have learned to be creative to stay in communication with our churches and leaders during this time,” Johnson said. “We have even been able to have an online meeting with the Convention Council during this period and have been able to make decisions and address concerns.”
In keeping with the national call to avoid larger gatherings, several AZSBC sponsored events were canceled, including the Hispanic and English VBS conferences, Coaching Skills Training, Zona Men’s Retreat and this summer’s Zona Camp (see separate story).
“I am proud of the way our staff has responded to this challenge and how they stayed connected with our churches to make sure needs were being met,” Johnson said.
When President Donald Trump urged all Americans to minimize contact with large gatherings of people for the next 15 days, Johnson sent an email to Arizona Southern Baptist leaders March 17, recommending all Arizona Southern Baptist churches suspend regular gatherings, including Sunday worship services.
“In this situation, love means making sure we do not do anything that could spread the virus further and do harm to others,” he wrote. “It also means caring for those in our congregations who will suffer in other ways during this time. Our churches have a great opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ by meeting basic needs and ministering in our communities.”
To assist churches, a page was added to Arizona Southern Baptists’ website listing helpful resources, including instructions on how to livestream a service, how to set up online giving, how to use Zoom for video conferencing, information on the CARES Act and much more. The page can be found at azsbc.org/covid-19-resources/.
Also on that page are a link to video and a story about a webinar hosted by Eddy Pearson, AZSBC evangelism/discipleship facilitator, and Keith Durham, AZSBC church health facilitator, with a panel of three church leaders on the topic of “Combatting Isolation: Connection through small groups.” The webinar was conducted on April 1 specifically to help churches during the shutdown.
“The good news is churches are finding new and creative ways to reach people and do church,” Johnson said in his email to church leaders March 17. “I don’t think the church will ever be the same!”