As we consider how online education theory can inform ways to create a healthy community at a distance, the next component in our “Community of Inquiry” framework is to facilitate ways for the church leadership to interact with members.

Sometimes we forget how important a quick phone call, text, or written note directly from the pastor or church leader can be. Today, Dr. Iorg, President of Gateway Seminary, called me on the phone just to check on my family. He knows that I have little ones at home with school being canceled and simply took the time to make sure we were OK. It didn’t take him more than a couple of minutes, but it was a huge encouragement that shows he cares.

As you and your leaders seek to provide the shepherding and personal care needed in this crisis, here are some ideas for making that connection both sustainable and meaningful:

Divide and Conquer: Grab your database of members, divide them into manageable groups, and give your leaders a group. Provide a bit of counsel to the leaders to help them encourage members through fear, anxiety, need, and isolation. Make sure that each leader has made a connection with each person in their group at least once a week, if not more.

Make Varied Connections: If possible, ask your leaders to attempt a connection point with each group member in a couple of different ways throughout the duration of the crisis. They should attempt a call, a text, an email, and even via social media. You can use the member’s preferred communication channel to follow up in the future.

Connect and Encourage Connection: When connecting with members, encourage those members to choose a couple people to connect with on their own. Getting many people to talk together and check on one another is an ideal way to cultivate community at a distance. The next blog post in this series will address this particular point in detail.

Funnel Needs Back to the Leadership Team: As your team connects with members, and members connect with others, request that needs be funneled back to the team as a whole so that your church can care for the needy or vulnerable in this time. Follow up with those pressing needs and attempt to serve them the best you and your team can.

Don’t Forget Visitors: One incredible opportunity you and your team have right now is to connect with visitors from the past year. If they have completed a visitor card, you can call, text or email just to say something like, “Hey, we have your number on file from your visit to First Baptist back in November and we just wanted to check on you during this crisis. Our church is here for you. We have a livestream available if you are able to watch from home. Can I pray for you?” Perhaps they need community and care more than ever and might be highly receptive to the gospel at this time.

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Jeff Iorg
Dr. Jeff Iorg is the president of Gateway Seminary. Prior to his service at the Seminary, Dr. Iorg was the Executive Director of the Northwest Baptist Convention for almost ten years. He was also the founding pastor of Greater Gresham Baptist Church in Gresham, Oregon, and has served as a pastor in Missouri and a staff pastor in Texas.

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Paul G. Kelly
Chair, Educational Leadership | Professor of Educational Leadership
Dr. Paul Kelly began his service at Gateway Seminary in Fall 2009 as the chair and professor of Educational Leadership. Prior to Gateway, Kelly served as vice president of ministry resources at Student Life Publishing, editor-in-chief of discipleship resources in Student Ministry Publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources, as well as a youth specialist in Discipleship at LifeWay.


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Chris Chun
Professor of Church History | Director, Jonathan Edwards Center
Dr. Chris Chun is the professor of Church History and the director of Jonathan Edwards Center at Gateway Seminary. Chris’ doctoral research at St. Andrews University was focused on the eighteenth-century Edwardsean Baptists in Britain. He also has served as president of The Evangelical Theological Society (Far West Region).

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David Rathel
Associate Professor of Christian Theology
Dr. Rathel is the associate professor of Chrisitian Theology at Gateway Seminary. Prior to Gateway, Dr. Rathel supplied pastoral care to churches in the United States and Scotland, served as an Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy for the Baptist College of Florida, and provided teaching assistance for the University of St Andrews.

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