Doing Church During COVID-19

Doing Church During COVID-19

Our conversation with innovator Josh Hinman

By: Kirk Hadden | Church Planting Communications & Marketing Creativity Habits & Culture Social Media Video Web Design & Development

People Becoming the Church

Josh Hinman is the Executive Director at the Seattle-area church newlife. The community they serve isn’t historically receptive to the Gospel. In fact, according to Josh, only 15% of the people in their region go to church on a Sunday. This statistic makes them the least “churched” area in the US.

Their unique position has allowed them to continuously rethink how to reach people. They always remind themselves that the Church is not a building, saying they are “People becoming the church on mission with Jesus to help heal the world.” 

That first phrase, “people becoming the church,” works itself out through the way they’ve modeled their congregation from the beginning. A multisite church with seven campuses, they only own one of those buildings, which they call “The Training Center.” 

Their other six campuses meet in elementary schools, and each has its own lead communicator. When it comes to the weekly sermon, they all preach the same message with the same points. Each teacher, though, fills out the message with his or her own stories, ideas, and heart.

Since the community-feel of each campus is so important to the way they’ve conducted meetings, they’ve never had a “video campus.” Though they’ve experimented with Facebook Live, nearly all of newlife’s members attend a location in their neighborhood.

But when the coronavirus epidemic hit Seattle, everything changed.

Forty-Eight Hours

The first sign that newlife would have to make new plans came from the schools where they met, who decided to close their doors to all outside groups. Six of the church’s seven campuses suddenly didn’t have a home.

The team went to work instantly. They found space in an office building and a coffee shop right away, but that plan fell through too. While they were trying to move all of their services to their Training Center, they learned about the limits surrounding gatherings of two hundred fifty people or more.

Josh said, “Within forty-eight hours, we went from seven gatherings to three gatherings to one gathering.” And that one gathering would have to be online only.

Volunteers Coming Together

The team at newlife took advantage of the free resources from the Church Online Platform.  Additionally, Josh said, “We have one of our staff people who’s a tech genius.” But it was a bigger job than one person could handle alone.

Josh said, “We did a callout: ‘Hey, who could help us?’ And we were able to set up an online experience within forty-eight hours. It wasn’t perfect, but it was good. Of course, nobody else noticed the problems except our own staff.

“And so, one of the things you see in crisis is a chance for people in the church who thought, ‘You could never use my talent on a weekend,’ but you could now use their talent every day.”

Their worship teams, who are usually spread across seven campuses, led worship together. But another unexpected occurrence helped reinforce their message that “people are the church.” 

Josh said, “Our lead pastor, who is an incredible voice and communicator, was sick. And so another one of our communicators had to step up.” The message he delivered was timely—exactly what everyone needed to hear.

Though they spent a couple of days recording three weeks’ worth of services, they’re prepared for the long haul. They sent a small video-recording package to their lead communicators. It includes:

  • A light kit
  • A lav mic and extension cord
  • A tripod for smartphones

(You can get links to the exact gear newlife sent their communicators right here.)

New Ideas to Reach People

Josh sees incredible opportunities for the Church at large at this moment. 

As he looks at the fallout from COVID-19, he says, “The Church has never been held captive or held hostage by circumstances. It’s always been an opportunity to see the Gospel flourish. And for some reason, the Gospel has always gone forward in times such as this. You know the saying, ‘Never waste a crisis’? The business world has been saying that for years. It’s time for the church world to lean into it right now.” 

Thinking about Easter, Josh wanted to encourage ministries everywhere. “Let me give you a thought: What if you had the largest Easter ever in the history of your church because you had groups of ten or under gather in their living rooms? So think through, What do I want to do? I mean the first-century church—this is literally how they met!”

How are you innovating?

Here at ArtSpeak, we sense this moment is yet another opportunity for the Body of Christ to shine. In the first century, long before churches met in their own buildings, the book of Acts reports that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47b).

We want to be part of this conversation with you:

  • What challenges are you facing? 
  • How are you innovating? 
  • How can we help? 

We want to see you reach more people. Let us know how we can help. Reach out to us through social media or the contact form at the bottom of this page.