Forming Faith Blog

Community Offline in COVID-19

While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts our church communities, we can use this opportunity to establish long-lasting practices for intergenerational community-building and home faith formation.

How do we build community offline during a pandemic?
Different Contexts

The first thing we need to acknowledge is that there is not one faith practice that fits everyone in every situation for every desired outcome. There are multiple variables to consider:

  • Community level. There are two main community targets here: the household (the basic building block of community) and the larger church community.
  • Participant type: All people are individuals, but that basic building block of a household comes in many different shapes and sizes. Families can have young, middle, teenage children, or even children who do not live at home. Households can also be couples, singles, and roommates. Individual household members can be young, old, and anywhere in between.
  • Resource availability: Not everyone has access to the same resources, including money and physical supplies, skills and knowledge, and (especially) time and energy.

Below are a few suggestions to get your creative juices flowing, with my thoughts on the various variables involved. None of these ideas are unique to me.

Pen Pals

[Larger community, all participant types, high resource availability except for time and energy.] Pair individuals or households to regularly send letters (yes, the old-fashioned kind), cards, or even artwork. Children, youth, or whole families can build relationships with senior members of the church community—who are more likely to suffer from loneliness. However, pairings of any ages can build intergenerational relationships. Those who cannot write can dictate to someone who can, or they can share in some other way.

Drawbacks: Some time and energy, though probably not as much as one might think.

Congregational support: “Matchmaking.” Supply paper, envelopes, stamps, and perhaps prompts.

Phone Calls

[Larger community, many participant types, high resource availability except for time and energy.] Most people have access to telephones and are quite familiar on how to use them. This makes phone calls more accessible than video chats. Congregations can partner households for some intergenerational, voice-to-voice relationship building.

Drawbacks: Not everyone is comfortable with phone calls, especially with people they don’t know well. Can exclude those with a hearing or speech impairment

Congregational support: “Matchmaking.” Conversation prompts.

Socially-Distanced Visits

[Larger community, many participant types, more difficult resource availability.] There still is nothing like in-person contact. When it’s advisable, you can set up intergenerational visits between two or more households (outdoors, six feet apart, with masks, etc.).

Drawbacks: Even with the most stringent safety measures, this does incur more risks than other suggestions. Also requires much more of a time and energy commitment.

Congregational support: “Matchmaking.” Conversation prompts.

Common Activities

[Larger community and household, all participant types, all resource availabilities, depending on specific activity.] People can stay connected on at least one level by practicing the same activity, even when they are apart. The congregation I’m a part of started a “breakthrough prayer” challenge with a short prayer to recite at the same time, twice a day (we do it at 9:19 am and 9:19 pm as that’s part of the church’s street address). It’s still going over a year later.

Drawbacks: It’s clearly not the same as being in person, but it can still be a shared experience.

Congregational support: You can easily choose a prayer or simple ritual that everyone can do everywhere.

Family Focus

[Household, multiple-person households, high resource availability.] The household (or family in its widest definition) is the building block of community and so must be one focus of community-building. Households should be challenged to add something that they don’t already do.


  • A mealtime prayer.
  • A short prayer time upon waking, going to bed, etc.
  • Daily check-ins with each other.
  • A short Bible story or passage can be read together.
  • Sharing a blessing upon waking, starting something, going to bed, etc.


  • A daily family devotional time with several or more of the above activities.
  • Family worship (in addition to any online congregational worship).
  • Whole-family Christian education time.
  • Family service projects.

Any of these things provide valuable relationship and faith-building opportunities. Congregation-wide challenges can also be emphasized as Common Activities. See below for valuable resources.

Keep It Going

While this pandemic is a horrible thing, it does give us an opportunity to rethink how we build community and practice faith formation. Let us take advantage of this time to refocus on the home as the foundation of faith and community and to start (or strengthen) intergenerational relationships. All these can—and should—continue once physical gatherings are again safe.

May God spark your creativity,

Gregory Rawn (Publisher)

Our Faith Formation Resources

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